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VVS, Sushil among awardees

New Delhi/ Hyderabad: VVS Laxman and 55 kg freestyle world wrestling champion Sushil Kumar were among seven sportspersons who were honoured with the prestigious Padma Shri Award, on Tuesday.

The other five recipients of the awards are shooter Gagan Narang, discuss thrower Krishna Poonia, weightlifter Kunjurani Devi, parajumper Shital Mahajan and mountaineer Harbhajan Singh.

In Hyderabad, Laxman said it was great and satisfying moment for him as his achievements have been rewarded.

“I am honoured. The biggest honour, however, is the opportunity to represent my country for so many years,” Laxman said. Awards and laurels are incidental. The most important thing is to try and bring glory to your team and country,” he stated.

Sushil Kumar said the recognition will help strengthening his resolve to win the gold medal in London Olympics next year. “It is thrilling to know that the nation has so much faith in me,” said the Beijing Olympic bronze medallist. “I did win the top position in the World Championships in Moscow but my main aim is to bag the gold in the 2012 Olympics. I would do my best not to disappoint my fans,” he said.

Sushil said he had expected to get the award for the past two years but was disappointed both the times.

“Today (Tuesday), I returned from practice and was sleeping and when some of my friends came and broke the good news,” he said.

However, lifter Kunjurani Devi said she was truly surprised by the government’s decision to choose her for Padma Shri. “Frankly, I never expected it. I could have received it in 2006 when I won the Commonwealth Games gold medal. This time, I believe, the Manipur government recommended my name. It is a case of better late than never,” said the weightlifter with a laugh.

Equally surprised was 28-year-old Krishna Poonia, the first Indian athlete to win a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games in 52 years.

“Believe me, I was not even aware that I was nominated for the Award,” said Poonia.

The award has also come as a great source of motivation for Gagan Narang, the man who clinched four gold medals in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Just before the Games, the rifleman was ignored for the Rajiv Khel Ratna Award for the second year running and an upset Narang almost decided to skip the CWG.

Asked if the latest recognition would help in erasing the bitter memory, Narang said: “Award or no award, I have to perform at the international level.

“This award is a huge honour and will surely boost my confidence before the London Olympics.”

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