President Pratibha Patil on Saturday hailed the efforts of Indian athletes, who brought glory to the country in the recently-concluded Asian Games at Guangzhou and encouraged them to maintain their golden run.
During a felicitation ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Patil congratulated the Asian Games gold medal winners and greeted them with flowers.
However, a notable absentee on the occasion was the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) chief and Commonwealth Games Organising Committee president Suresh Kalmadi. It is important to note that earlier Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had also given him a royal snub after the Delhi Games when he met the CWG medal winners.
Meanwhile, talking to the reporters during the function athletes said they were overwhelmed by President's gesture and would like to further improve upon their performances to put up a better show during the London Olympics 2012.
"It is a dream come true. I had never even imagined that I would meet the President some day. The gesture puts an added responsibility on our shoulders to improve our performances and make the country proud in the forthcoming Olympics," said Joseph Abraham, who etched his name into record books after becoming the first Indian to grab a gold in men's 400m hurdles during the recently concluded Games in China.
Ashwini Akkunji, who raced to glory with her exemplary golden double in the women's 400m hurdles and was also a part of the women's 4x400m relay, expressed her gratitude to the people of country and said that without their support she would not have been able to attain the feat.
"When I was running it was quite heartening to see the people of my country cheering and supporting me. Although there were only few Indian fans present during the event but to see tears in their eyes after every run encouraged me and that is something I can never forget," an elated athlete said.
"I am thankful to my parents who supported me. The credit goes to my coaches who motivated me to go a step forward," added Ashwani.
The small town girl from the coastal town of Udupi in Karnataka said she trained really hard for the Asiad, particularly for the hurdles, even though she started just a month before the Games.
"I never expected a gold in hurdles as I started my preparations late for the event. But I tried to give my best," insisted Ashwani, adding, "I still need to do a lot of things to improve and be in the reckoning for the Olympics."
The Indian teen sensation Vikas Krishan who humbled defending champion Qing Hu of China to win India a gold in the lightweight (60kg) category said, "I never expected that one day I will meet the President, it is just like a dream and it encourages me to bring more laurels to the country."
Among others who were present on the occasion were the gold medallists of men's and women's Kabaddi teams apart from Bajrang Lal Thakkar, who won India's first gold medal in rowing and gold medal winner in men's double trap shooting Ranjan Sodhi. However, the star Indian boxer Vijender Singh could not make it to the function.