Laxman was conferred the Arjuna award in 2001
Ace batsman VVS Laxman and World champion wrestler Sushil Kumar were among seven sportspersons honoured with the prestigious Padma Shri on Tuesday for their contribution in their respective disciplines.
Besides Laxman and Sushil, the other five conferred the civilian award were weightlifter Kunjarani Devi, shooter Gagan Narang, discus thrower Krishna Poonia, para jumper Shital Mahajan and mountaineer and Harbhajan Singh.
The 36-year-old Laxman, who scored 7903 runs in 120 Tests at an average of 47.32, has played many a memorable match-winning knock for India in his nearly 15-year-old international career, starting 1996.
He entered cricketing folklore with a magnificent 281 against Steve Waugh's Australia in 2001, which helped India script a historic win after following-on in the Eden Gardens Test.
Last year, the stylish batsman from Hyderabad was India's saviour on many occasions.
In August, he was instrumental in the team winning the third Test against Sri Lanka with an unbeaten 103, as India levelled the three-match series 1-1.
In October, Laxman then battled severe back pain to hit an unbeaten 73 as India won the second Test against Australia in Mohali, and followed it up with another very special knock last month against South Africa in Durban, scoring 96 as India won the second Test and levelled the series.
Laxman, who was conferred the Arjuna award in 2001, has scored 16 hundreds and 49 half centuries in Tests, besides 2338 runs from 86 one-day internationals.
Image: VVS Laxman
Narang bagged 4 gold medals and 2 silver in 2010
Rifle ace Narang had a memorable 2010, winning four gold medals in the Commonwealth Games and two silver at the Guangzhou Asian Games. He also won four gold at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
Gagan, whose success story began with a gold medal in the Afro-Asian Games in 2003, won a gold in ISSF World Cup in 2006 and a bronze in the 2008 edition. He also won gold in 2008 ISSF World Cup final in Bangkok where he scored a World record 703.5 in 10 metre air rifle.
Image: Gagan Narang
Sushil received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2009
Sushil shot into limelight when he bagged a bronze medal in the 66kg freestyle competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games. It was the first by an Indian since K D Jadhav's bronze medal-winning feat at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
He then won the 2010 World Wrestling Championships in Moscow and clinched gold in the Asian Championships and Commonwealth Games, both in Delhi last year.
Sushil received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the country's highest award for achievement in sport, in 2009.
"It is a proud come moment for me and my family. I am really very happy. I am delighted that my hard work paid off. The award has come as blessings for me from my elders and countrymen," the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games gold medalist said.
"It (the award) has put additional responsibility on me going into the London Olympics. But it will inspire me to come up with a better performance than Beijing in the London Olympics," said Sushil, who missed the Guangzhou Asian Games due to neck and shoulder injury.
Image: Sushil Kumar
'I was pleasantly surprised'
Kunjarani, one of the most decorated Indian sportspersons, has won more than 50 international medals, starting with three silver medals in the World Championships in 1989.
She won gold in women's 48-kg category at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
In the Asian Games, Kunjarani, now 42, won a bronze medal each in Beijing (1990) and Hiroshima (1994).
An assistant commandant at the CRPF, she also won several medals in the Asian and Commonwealth Championships. She was conferred the Arjuna in 1990 and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna for 1996-1997.
"I thought I would get the Padma Shri after I won gold in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. So I was not expecting to get the award this year. When I got a call that I have been awarded with Padma Shri I was pleasantly surprised. I am happy to have got the award though belatedly," said Kunjarani.
Image: Kunjarani Devi
First Indian woman to win an individual gold
Poonia became the first Indian woman from track and field events to win an individual gold at the Commonwealth Games when she achieved the feat in the Delhi edition last year.
Her feat was also the first in 52 years when an Indian won an individual gold since 'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh's effort in 1958 edition.
She also won a bronze each in the Asian Games in 2006 and 2010 and conferred the Arjuna last year.
"I am happy that I got the award after my historic performance in the Commonwealth Games. I became the first Indian woman to win an individual athletics gold in CWG and I think that was the main reason for me getting this award," said Poonia.
"It will give motivation to do better in the coming events, including the London Olympics in 2012. This is also an honour for the athletics fraternity of our country.
"I dedicate the award to my family, colleagues and the people of India," she added.
Image: Krishna Poonia