ritu rani
Ritu Rani [right] will skipper India women's hockey team in the Rio Olympics 2016. Pictured: Indian freestyle wrestler Sushil Kumar and Hockey player Ritu Rani during a press conference at the launch of Rio Olympics 2016 tickets in India; in New Delhi, on Jan 22, 2016.IANS

Hockey India have recommended the names of Ritu Rani, the India women's hockey team skipper, and VR Raghunath, India men's hockey team drag-flicker, on Wednesday, for the Arjuna Award this year. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had earlier nominated Ajinkya Rahane for the award given out by the central government.

Ritu, 24, played an integral part as the Indian eves sealed an Olympics berth last year, following a wait of 36 years. They achieved the feat during the EuroHockey Championship in London last August. The India women's hockey team had last qualified for the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, where they finished fourth.

Following their qualification for the Rio Olympics 2016, Ritu's army posted an emphatic performance during the South Asian Games 2016 in Guwahati to win the gold medal. Ritu scored thrice to help India thrash Sri Lanka 10-0 in their gold-medal match.

Raghunath, meanwhile, is referred to as one of the best drag-flickers in Indian hockey in recent years, and is an integral part of the India men's hockey team that is to be led by Sardar Singh in Rio Olympics 2016. India hockey team coach Roelant Oltmans had earlier said his men could win a medal this time round if they perform to the best of their abilities.

India last won a gold medal in hockey in the Olympics in 1980, and have a total of eight gold medals so far.

"With their passion and dedication for the sport, these players who have been recommended have done India proud by earning several accolades internationally," Mohd Mushtaque Ahmad, secretary general of Hockey India, has been quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.

"I truly believe they deserve every recognition and appreciation for the efforts they have put in making the nation shine in various tournaments," he added.

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