Mumbai: Five-time world champion M C Mary Kom is aiming at nothing less than a gold medal when women's boxing makes its debut in the Olympic Games next year.

"My aim is to win gold in London and I am training harder than ever. I am aware of the billion hopes I am carrying. I can't let the people of India down.

"What I am looking forward the most to is to become first woman boxer to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games," the 28-year-old Manipuri said in an interview to 'Olympic Review', the official magazine of the Games.” she added.

The pugilist will seek to qualify for the mega event during the women's world championships next year. Mary said she found it difficult to believe that her dream of representing the country in the Olympics could come true when she first learnt about the International Olympic Committee's decision to finally make women's boxing a part of the biggest sporting extravaganza in August 2009.

 "At first I could not believe my ears. But when it was confirmed, I was so happy. I have won everything that could be won, but it was the Olympic gold that eluded me. Now, it's a dream coming true for me to get the chance to represent my nation at the Olympic Games when I am at the peak of my career," she said.

The Guangzhou Asian Game bronze-medalist, who has switched to the 51 kg category, revealed that the silver medal winning feat in the 2001 Women's Amateur Boxing Championships in USA added to her confidence of competing at the highest level.

"I was still very ignorant about the women's world boxing scene when I went for the world championship. I wasn't very confident of winning, but I just tried to focus on my game and went on to win the silver. That itself was great for me.

"Apart from the silver medal, what I gained most from the experience was confidence. I came to know that I can compete at the highest level if I keep working hard and so I did just that.

Mary subsequently won gold in the championships in 2002 in Turkey, a feat which she repeated four more times – Russia (2005), India (2006), China 2008) and Barbados (2010).

"After the silver in the USA, I travelled to Turkey aiming for gold. I was much more confident than before and knew my competitors well. I'm elated to have defended my title successfully four times and would like to do so as long as I compete," she added.

The 2009 Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee, who considers herself an "all-round athlete good at many sports", recalled how the success of state-mate Dingko Singh in the 1998 edition of the Asian Games inspired her select boxing as a career.

"With Dingko Singh winning the gold in the 1998 Asian Games, boxing went through a new wave in Manipur. I was one of the many youngsters who took to boxing at that time.

"Luckily for me, women's boxing started in Manipur just after and there was ample opportunity to succeed as it was new to the state and there were no women who had already mastered the sport. Everyone was on equal footing. That was how I took up the sport," she said.

The mother of two, who was described as 'Magnificent Mary' by the AIBA following her feat of winning her fourth successive world crown in 2008 after returning from a two-year sabbatical, also remembered the difficulties she had to face when she took up boxing against the wishes of her parents.

"It was tough as I had to lie to my parents every day. But I was sure that if I was successful, I would be able to convince them and move forward. Luckily for me, I succeeded at the state level and thereafter could persuade my parents with the help of my cousins. Once they were convinced, there was nothing that could stop me and there I am today," Mary said.

(Agencies)