NEW DELHI: The last time the sports ministry made an exception with the Rajiv GandhiKhel Ratna award was back in 2009, when for the first time three athletes – Sushil Kumar, Vijender Singh and MC Mary Kom – were conferred the award. On Monday, for the first time in the history of Indian sport, the country’s highest sporting honour was presented to four athletes: Rio Olympic medallists PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik, gymnast Dipa Karmakar and shooter Jitu Rai.
President Pranab Mukherjee gave away the awards in the presence of an august gathering at the Darbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan. The Khel Ratna awardees received a medal, certificate and cash prize of Rs 7.5 lakh each. Shuttler Sindhu, who was the first to receive the honour following her silver-medal winning show in Rio, gave credit to her parents and coach P Gopichand. “I am thankful to my coach and parents because of whom I could pursue my dream. It’s been a great day for me, to receive the award. I am very happy,” Sindhu said.”Yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modiji congratulated me saying I made the country proud and that made my day. In Rio, I didn’t have much clue on how people will react. I am overwhelmed by love and affection showered on me once I reached home,” she added.
Dipa, who finished fourth in the vault final, received the award as her coach Bisweshwar Nandi was conferred the Dronacharya. “It really feels great to receive the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. It’s a dream for every sportsperson in the country. The joy is doubled as my coach also got the Dronacharya award, I am very happy for him,” Dipa said after receiving the award.
India’s Test skipper Virat Kohli’s coach Raj Kumar Sharma, athletics coach Nagapuri Ramesh, boxing coach Sagar Mal Dhayal, Pradeep Kumar (Swimming, lifetime) and Mahabir Singh (wrestling, lifetime) were other Dronacharya awardees, who received certificates and a cheque for Rs 5 lakh each.
A total of 15 athletes were honoured with the Arjuna Awards including Rio Olympics finalist Lalita Babar, boxer Shiva Thapa, wrestler Vinesh Phogat and Amit Kumar, archer Rajat Chauhan, shooter Apurvi Chandela, among others. They received a bronze memento and Rs 5 lakh each.
World Championship bronze medallist Amit, who failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics, said the awards will give him motivation to start afresh ahead of the World and Asian Championship.
Cricketer Ajinkya Rahane missed out on the ceremony as he is still in the US after the conclusion of the T20 International series against the West Indies. Goalkeeper Subrata Paul was the lone footballer in the list of Arjuna awardees.
ROLL OF HONOUR
RAJIV GANDHI KHEL RATNA AWARD 2016
P.V. Sindhu (badminton), Dipa Karmakar (gymnastics), Jitu Rai (shooting) Sakshi Malik (wrestling).
DRONACHARYA AWARDS 2016:
Nagapuri Ramesh (athletics), Sagar Mal Dhayal (boxing), Raj Kumar Sharma (cricket), Bishweshwar Nandi (gymnastics), S Pradeep Kumar (swimming, lifetime) and Mahabir Singh (wrestling, lifetime).
ARJUNA AWARDS 2016:
Rajat Chauhan (archery), Lalita Babar (athletics), Sourav Kothari (billiards and snooker), Shiva Thapa (boxing), Ajinkya Rahane (cricket), Subrata Paul (football), Rani (hockey), VR Raghunath (hockey), Gurpreet Singh (shooting), Apurvi Chandela (shooting), Soumyajit Ghosh (table tennis), Vinesh Phogat (wrestling), Amit Kumar (wrestling), Sandeep Singh Mann (para-athletics), Virender Singh (wrestling, deaf).
DHYAN CHAND AWARD: Satti Geetha (athletics), Sylvanus Dung Dung (hockey), Rajendra Pralhad Shelke (rowing).
State-run gas utility GAIL has announced an immediate grant of Rs 2 lakh and a monthly scholarship of Rs 20,000 for the next two years to gymnast Ashmita Paul, a 15-year-old Tripura girl from a humble background being billed as the next Dipa Karmakar. Ashmita’s father works on daily wage and her mother as a domestic help in Agartala. They live in a crammed dwelling. But Ashmita has defied her family’s impoverishment to make it to the national team for the World School Championships in Turkey. The funds will help Ashmita to meet training and nutritional requirements.
CRPF TO MAKE SINDHU ITS BRAND AMBASSADOR
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the country’s largest paramilitary force, has decided to make Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu its ‘brand ambassador’ and also give her the honorary rank of commandant in the force.
Official sources said the force has moved a formal proposal in this regard to the Union home ministry and after getting the required sanctions, Sindhu will be honoured and presented the rank badges and camouflage combat fatigues at a ceremonial event. Sindhu has been informed and her consent taken.
A commandant rank in the CRPF is equivalent to the position of a superintendent of police (SP) and such an officer commands a battalion of about 1,000 personnel, when posted in field operations. CRPF officials said that the 3.5 lakh personnel strong force chose Sindhu not only motivate personnel but will also send across a message of women’s empowerment.