New Delhi:A four-time world champion, MC Mary Kom has never been considered worthy for Khel Ratna and disturbed by the apathy, the Manipuri - arguably world's most successful woman boxer - is asking what more she needs to do to get the country's highest sporting honour.
"I have won the World Championship four times on the trot. (Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh) Dhoni gets a Khel Ratna for winning just one World Cup, I fail to understand why am I being ignored then. How can anybody expect an athlete to stay motivated if he or she is ignored like that?" Mary Kom said in an interview on Monday.
The pin weight pugilist, who clinched a fourth world title in the fifth edition of the event in Ningbo City, China, managed the feat despite being away from the ring for two years after becoming a mother.
Hurt at being ignored twice for the award, Mary Kom says even more disturbing than that is the sheer ignorance about the sport in which she competes.
"Last year, when my name was recommended by the federation, I had been shortlisted along with Dhoni but (Arjuna awards selection committee chairman) Milkha Singh struck off my name saying that he did not know which sport I competed in. That hurt me terribly," she revealed.
"I want to ask him today, how many more titles do I have to win for him and for the country to believe that I deserve the honour?" she asked.
"Don't give me the award if you think I am not worthy but please don't insult me with statements like that. It angers me. People should be encouraging but they are not and I have accepted it as part of life," she said.
The Indian Boxing Federation says it would push for her case yet again next year and is confident of becoming third time lucky.
"We will once again recommend her. Evey time, she has been sidelined but this time she should get the honour. She is special and her achievements are unparalleled," IBF General secretary Col PKM Raja said.
Mary Kom, meanwhile, is busy chalking out her plans for future and is keeping her fingers crossed for women's boxing inclusion in the 2010 Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.
"I am looking forward to training hard now and hope that women's boxing is included in the 2010 Asian and Commonwealth Games so that I can add to the medals that I have won. My ultimate dream is to represent the country in the Olympic Games and hopefully that dream would realise in London 2012," she said.
Attending camps and tournaments means staying away from her young family but Mary Kom says she can bank on her husband's support to make sure that her twin boys are not neglected.
"It feels terrible to leave the kids behind but my husband has made sure that I don't have to worry about my boys. They are well taken care of when I am not around. We have planned everything and it does not disturb my family life," she said.
The Manipuri said despite the hurdles she is determined to continue and refused to set a date for her retirement. "I will continue till the time I am motivated," she signed off.