New Delhi, 29 August 2016: Indian hockey team's drag flick expert VR Raghunath and women's team striker Rani were conferred with the prestigious Arjuna Award by the President of India Pranab Mukherjee at a glittering ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here on Monday.
Both Raghunath and Rani who were part of the Indian teams at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games were elated on receiving the Award.
"This kind of recognition will only boost the morale of a player and also of the team. I am very happy that this time players from both the men and women's team have been recognised.
"Someone told me this is the first time after 1997 that a hockey player from Karnataka is getting the Arjuna Award so this is doubly special for me.
"Receiving the Arjuna Award from the honourable President is a matter of pride and this will only motivate me further in my career," stated Raghunath who has been a pillar of strength in the Indian team's defence structure for close to a decade now.
Meanwhile, Rani, too expressed her joy on receiving the award and said that being inside the Rashtrapati Bhavan itself was a big honour.
"When I started my journey as a hockey player at the age of nine in Shahbaad, I had never imagined I would scale such heights and be part of the Indian team that would play at the Olympics after 36 years.
"To be part of the Rio contingent was like a dream. I would like to thank Hockey India for their support and the Government of India for recognising my efforts.
"To receive this award among such high profile dignitaries and fellow sports people inside the Rashtrapati Bhavan is a huge honour and my parents and family are very excited for me. This award will help me stay motivated and ensure the team qualifies for the Tokyo Olympics," Rani said.
Speaking on the awards, Md. Mushtaque Ahmad, Secretary General, Hockey India said, "We would like to congratulate all the winners including our hockey players.
"These awards recognise the sweat, toil and sacrifice the players have given to reach at this point in their careers and to bring laurels to our country.
"I congratulate both Raghunath and Rani for doing a great service to India and wish they continue to inspire generations to take up the sport.
"Also Dung Dung the hero of the 1980 Olympics, is a true legend and this award to him is well deserved too. I also extend my congratulations to Hockey Citizen Group and Mr. Arumugam for their relentless work for the betterment of hockey in India."
The ceremony also saw Sylvanus Dung Dung being presented with the Major Dhyan Chand Lifetime Achievement award. S Dung Dung, an unsung hero of Indian hockey, had struck the golden goal against Spain that brought home the elusive Gold Medal in the 1980 Olympic Games.
Hockey Citizen Group, a Delhi-based NGO, was awarded the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar, for identifying and nurturing young talent in the field of hockey.