Hockey forward Zafar Iqbal, archery exponent Limba Ram, Indian women's cricket captain Jhulan Goswami and veteran badminton coach Syed Mohammad Arif are the four sports personalities who have been named for this year's prestigious Padma Shri award.

Recognition for hockey

“It is recognition for hockey. I hope it will inspire more and more youngsters to take to hockey. It is our own game but unfortunately hockey faces a threat of survival and it is imperative that we encourage youngsters to play this great and exciting game.

There are sentiments attached to our history of hockey,” said 55-year-old Zafar following the announcement of the Padma awards here on Wednesday.

Zafar, a member of the 1980 Moscow Olympics gold medal winning team, captained the National team in the 1984 Olympic Games. He was the chief coach of the Indian side from 1993 to 1994.imba Ram was the face of Indian archery before the current batch of athletes. The three-time Olympian, the first archer to get the Padma Shri, had narrowly missed a medal in the 1992 Barcelona Games. In the 1992 Asian championships in Beijing, he had equalled a world record to win the gold medal.

The archer from Rajasthan, who is also the National coach, dedicated the award to all “fellow archers” and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) which spotted him at the age of 15.

“I firmly believe that the Padma Shri award given to me will inspire the entire archery family. I come from a very humble, tribal background.

“But it always feels nice to be recognised by your country. I wish this award encourages sportspersons from tribal and backward areas,” said 39-year-old Limba Ram.

All-rounder Jhulan, who has played eight Test matches and 114 One-Day Internationals to claim 33 and 135 wickets respectively, has been the backbone of the Indian women's team bowling for a decade.

The 28-year-old lanky medium-pacer from Bengal has earned many laurels, including the ICC Women's Player of the Year in 2007.

Jhulan delighted

“It is really a big honour. Getting such recognition from the government is really awesome. The award will motivate me to do well in future for the country. I dedicate this award to my coach Swapan Sadhu, my teammates and parents,” said Jhulan.

Arif, in his long career spanning over three decades, has produced top shuttlers like P. Gopi Chand, P.V.V. Lakshmi, G. Jwala and Saina Nehwal. He has also served as the chief National coach.

Besides the quartet, Ajeet Bajaj (skiing), Devendra Jhajrija (Paralympics), Ravi Chaturvedi (sports commentator), Prabhakar Vaidya (physical education) were the others to be awarded Padma Shri.

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