New Delhi: It is a case of better late than never for ace Indian rifleman Gagan Narang who is happy to have finally got the coveted Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award after being ignored for the honour last year.
"I am happy that finally it has come," said Narang after receiving the prestigious award from President Pratibha Patil on Monday.
Although Narang has won medals at major international tournaments, including the World Cup, World Championships and the Asian Games, an Olympic medal is something that has eluded the shooter so far and he is now determined to make it to the podium in London next year.
"It is not going to be an easy task in London. I am already feeling the pressure but I am determined to go all the way. I have been unlucky twice, hope I get third time lucky," said Narang, who is the first shooter to qualify for the quadrennial event.
Besides notching up four gold medals at last year`s Commonwealth Games, Narang won a silver in the men`s 10m air rifle singles event at the Asian Games last year. He also bagged a team silver at the Asian Games when he combined with Abhinav Bindra and Sanjeev Rajput in the 10m air rifle event.
The ace shooter, who would be competing in the Asian Airgun shooting championship in Kuwait followed by the Asian championship in Doha, said he is looking to improve on his fitness.
"Working on my fitness is my immediate goal. I have to improve my fitness," said Narang.
Meanwhile, footballer Sunil Chhetri, who bagged the Arjuna award, said the honour is a motivation for him to work harder on his game.
"It hasn`t sunk in yet. It feels great to have won Arjuna award and it is a motivation for me to do better," said Chhetri.
Admitting that it would be hard to fill the gap created by Bhaichung Bhutia, who brought the curtains down on his career spanning over 16 years, Chhetri said it would be a chance for the youngsters to establish themselves.
"It would be extremely difficult to fill the big shoes of Bhaichung but it also means opportunity for youngsters," said Chhetri.
He also said that Indian football is moving in the right direction and is only improving.
"Indian football is moving in the right direction and is improving but we all -- the players, coaches, federation, the media -- need to work together. Rather than criticising we should all work towards improving Indian football."
India hockey captain Rajpal Singh, meanwhile, dedicated his Arjuna award to his team.
"Hockey is a team game and I would like to dedicate my award to my team," said Rajpal.
Dogged by a spate of controversies in recent past, including the pull-out of two senior players -- Sardara Singh and Sandeep Singh -- from the national camp, Rajpal said discipline must be maintained in the team.
"In order to maintain discipline in the team, action is needed to be taken. It is the senior players who set the example in the team," he said.
The Indian team will miss the services of the senior players at the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy to be played in Ordos, China from September 3 to 11.
Rajpal, who feels that the Asian Champions Trophy would be a launching pad for their preparations for London, said he was confident that his team would be able to qualify for the London Olympics.
"We have the qualifying in February and we are working hard on our fitness and other weak points. I am confident we would be able to qualify for London 2012," said Rajpal.
Badminton star Jwala Gutta expressed her happiness at receiving the Arjuna award but admitted that there is much room for improvement as far as her doubles game is concerned.
"I hope that me getting the Arjuna award and winning tournaments along with my partners at the international level would highlight the need to bring in good foreign coaches for doubles games in the country," said Gutta.
"In badminton, you need to have specialised coaches for doubles as opposed to tennis. Badminton doubles is a different ball game. It is more competitive, faster and action packed," she added.
Jwala said she is completely focussed on future tournaments, she is not thinking about Olympics yet.
"I am not thinking about Olympics as of now as it adds to pressure. I just want to concentrate on upcoming tournaments in China and Japan and by the end of the year would want to break into top 10," said Jwala.
Para swimmer Prasanta Karmakar, after receiving the Arjuna award, said it was just the beginning of his dreams.
"Arjuna award is a real motivation. Hopefully, my dream would be complete in London next year. Even though I still do not have proper facilities and sponsors, I hope to do my best," said Karmakar.