Kolkata: After becoming the first man in Indian archery to be honoured with the Padma Shri, national coach Limba Ram dedicated it to SAI and hoped the award would inspire and motivate the archers.
The unassuming Limba, who had won the Arjuna Award way back in 1991, was busy in the Senior Nationals in Jamshedupur, and was unaware of the achievement till PTI broke the good news to him.
"Aap majak kar rahe ho (you are kidding)," was Limba`s first reaction when he was told that he had been chosen as one of the recipients of this year`s Padma Shri.
However, after realising that it`s for real, Limba said this would give a message -- that nothing is impossible – to the tribal community of Rajasthan.
Limba was at his gracious best as he said that this would inspire and motivate his fellow archers.
Limba recollected his journey from Saradeet village in Udaipur district of Rajasthan when, aged 15, he was picked after a trial of shooting at date trees.
"I remember Prithviraj Bhadra, a sports lover who took me to the trials. I had no knowledge of the trials as my only motive was to see Chittorgarh fort."
"We were asked to shoot at date trees and I got picked and was taken to SAI. I did not look back since then," Limba said while dedicating his honour to SAI.
"I hailed from a poor village family, from a tribal community. Never in my dream I had thought to reach this far. This award is a recognition to the tribal community."
At the peak of his playing career, Limba shot a gold in the Asian Archery Championship in Beijing in 1992, but suffered a jolt by missing out on an Olympic bronze by one point in Barcelona.
Now the national archery coach, Limba said the trauma is still fresh but he hoped to overcome it through his wards, Jayanta Talukdar and Deepika Kumari`s performances.
"Woh ek sadma tha (that was a nightmare). I would have easily clinched an Olympic medal at that time. But the destination is not very far this time. I hope the wait will get over this time around with our boys and girls doing very well in archery."
"I have very high hopes from Deepika Kumari and Jayanta Talukdar. We don`t have to run after success now. We will just have to shoot with concentration. Success will come to us."
Since his appointment as national coach, Indian archery has been on an upswing as after a successful Commonwealth Games and Asian Games campaign, India had a memorable last year winning 40 international medals.
By stunning world champions Korea in the semifinal of the biennial World Championships, the trio of Deepika, Laishram Bombayla Devi and Chekrovolu Swuro not only grabbed full quota berths for London, but became overwhelming favourites to win a first-ever medal in Olympics.
In the men`s section, Talukdar also grabbed an Olympic berth.
"I hope Tarundeep Rai and Rahul Banerjee, who were going through a slump, rise to the occasion and clinch the Olympic berths in the upcoming World Cup."
"We have achieved the number one status beating Korea. The only target remains now is to win the Olympics," Limba signed off.