The first woman sportsperson to be decorated with the Padma Vibhushan, celebrated boxer MC Mary Kom on Sunday said she hopes to win the Bharat Ratna by winning a gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
"It is a dream to win the Bharat Ratna. With this award (Padma Vibhushan) I will now be inspired to do even better with the thought that I can win the Bharat Ratna," Mary Kom, 2012 Olympics bronze medallist and a six-time world champion, told reporters.
"Sachin Tendulkar is the only sportsperson to have won it and I hope to become the second one and the first woman. I want to emulate Tendulkar and I get inspiration from him."
The 36-year-old Mary Kom, however, said her immediate target is to first qualify for the Olympics and then she would think about the "colour of the medal".
"My immediate target is to first qualify for Olympics and then I will think about the colour of the medal. If I qualify and win a gold in Tokyo I hope to get the Bharat Ratna. To be honoured with Bharat Ratna will be the pinnacle of achievement and recognition for not only a sportsperson but also for any Indian," she said.
Bharat Ratna is the country's highest civilian award.
An emotional Mary Kom, who was named for Padma Vibhushan, the country's second highest civilian award on Saturday, thanked God for making her an Indian and being able to bring laurels to the country.
"I am proud to be an Indian and I thank God for making me an Indian. Each time I go out to fight for the country, I feel something inside me and that motivates me to bring glory to the country. The kind of love the people of this country have given me, I want to give back with my performance," said the 2012 London Bronze medallist.
"It is an emotional and touching moment for me to have won the country's second highest award. And that came when the country is celebrating the Republic Day. I will never forget this day. I thank sports minister for recommending me and also thank the Prime Minister for his support."
The Manipuri boxer, who was conferred with the Padma Bhushan in 2013 and Padma Shri in 2006, is the first woman and only the fourth sportsperson to be given the Padma Vibhushan after chess wizard Viswanathan Anand, mountaineer Edmund Hillary and cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar who all got the coveted award in 2008.
Tendulkar was later conferred with the Bharat Ratna in 2014.
Asked how she felt to be the greatest Indian woman sportsperson ever, Mary Kom said, "I think I have brought so many laurels for the country and the only thing remaining is a gold medal in the Olympics.
"I want to shine for the country. Tokyo is likely to be my last Olympics. I don't know whether they (BFI) will allow me to participate in next Olympics (2024) at 40 years of age so this one is really important. I want to win a gold medal for my country in the Olympics," she said.
She dedicated the Padma Vibhushan to the people of India and advised the likes of PV Sindhu and Rani Rampal, who have won the Padma Awards, to keep doing the good work and win higher honours by bringing glory to the country.
"I dedicate this award to the people of this country and my advice to other Padma Award winners like Sindhu or Rani Rampal is: they should inspire from these awards and dream of winning even higher honours."
Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, the Olympic boxing qualifying tournament, which was earlier to be held in the Chinese city of Wuhan from February 3-14, has been shifted to Amman in Jordan from March 3-11.
Mary Kom said the country's boxers will have to do some minor adjustment in training schedule.
"I don't see any advantage or disadvantage on our part by the change in the venue and schedule by one month. Only thing is that it would have been better had India hosted it since the BFI had offered to host it," she said.
"We had trained to reach our peak during February (according to Wuhan tournament schedule) but now we have to do some small adjustments. We have to rejig our training schedule. Now we have to slow down a bit so that we can peak in March (in Jordan)."