New Delhi: Sushil Kumar couldn`t have asked for a better start to the new season after his name was recommended for the Padma Bhushan -- India`s third highest civilian honour -- and he said the award is yet another recognition of the hard work he has put in over the years.
Sushil, who scripted history by becoming the first Indian to win back-to-back individual Olympic medals -- a silver in London after his bronze in Beijing -- said it`s an extremely proud moment for him.
"I indeed feel privileged and honoured at being recommended for this recognition. This award will be another recognition of my hard work and determination," Sushil told PTI.
"I am the first Indian athlete to win two Olympic medals. We gave our everything to this sport and this award will help in raising the profile of the game. Such recognitions always help in attracting more youngsters towards the sport. I am thankful to the Sports Ministry for recommending my name. I feel happy and excited," he said.
The Sports Ministry had yesterday recommended the names of Sushil and cricketer Rahul Dravid for the Padma Bhushan.
The 29-year-old Sushil was rewarded with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2009 and the Padma Shri in 2011.
The ministry`s recommendations for this year`s Padma Shri include pistol shooter Vijay Kumar, who won the silver at the London Games and wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, who bagged the 60kg bronze. Both Vijay and Yogeshwar won the Khel Ratna last year.
The Union Home Ministry will have a final word on the awards.
Asked about his long-time friend and fellow grappler Yogeshwar being recommended for the country`s fourth highest civilian award, Sushil said, "I am confident that he will also get the award. He snatched the bronze medal at the London Games for which he got the Khel Ratna. Now this will further motivate him for the upcoming tournaments."
"It`s a big honour for any sportsperson. We fight on the mat to bring glory to the country and such recognitions always help in boosting our confidence," said the 29-year-old Sushil from Baprola, on the outskirts of the national capital.
Sushil, who is back to the grind with an eye on the World Championships this year in Budapest, Hungary from September 16 to 22, exuded confidence of doing well at the prestigious meet.
"I am back to training for the upcoming meets which include senior Asian Wrestling Championship in April in Delhi, followed by the World Championships. I am working hard towards achieving my aim of winning medals there," he said.
On the IOC`s suspension of the Indian Olympic Association because of government interference in its election process, Sushil said the same intensity would be missing even if the Indian athletes can participate under the IOC banner and not under their national flag.
"We only concentrate on playing and don`t think of official matters. It`s not our job. My simple advice to the Indian officials is just keep the interest of the athletes in mind. Do your work with utmost sincerity."
Sushil said the 2016 Rio Olympics is definitely an integral part of his plan.