The Wrestling Federation of India on Monday recommended recently-crowned Asian Champion Bajrang Punia and 2018 Asian Games gold-medallist Vinesh Phogat for the India’s highest sporting honour – the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.
Bajrang and Vinesh’s names were sent by WFI after their remarkable performances in the last couple of years. “They [Bajrang and Vinesh] have been recommended for Khel Ratna by the WFI after both of them submitted their applications,” a WFI official confirmed.
World no 1 Punia has recently stamped his authority at the Asian Championship in Xi’an, China by clinching a gold medal in the men’s 65 kg freestyle event. Last year, the 25-year-old grappler had bagged gold at the Jakarta Asian Games too.
Vinesh could only win a bronze at the recent Asian Championship, but considering that she fought in a new weight category of 53 kg, it was seen as a good achievement. In 2018, the 24-year-old became the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at the Asian Games.
Besides Bajrang and Vinesh, WFI has recommended names of Rahul Aware, Harpreet Singh, Divya Kakran and Pooja Dhanda for the Arjuna award. Dhanda, 25, had claimed a bronze at the World Championships last year after a silver to her credit at the Commonwealth Games.
The 21-year-old Kakran ended with a bronze at the Asian Championship. The youngster had a third-place finish both at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games last year.
Aware was the gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games, while Harpreet Singh won a silver at the Asian Championship on Sunday. Last year, Bajrang had cried foul after he was denied the Khel Ratna and instead cricketer Virat Kohli and weightlifter Mirabai Chanu were conferred the top honours.
Bajrang, who had threatened to move court due to this, would be hoping to make the cut this time around. The WFI has also recommended Virender Kumar, Sujeet Maan, Narendra Kumar and Vikram Kumar for the Dronacharya award, meant for high-performing coaches.
Bheem Singh and Jai Prakash’s names have been sent for the Dhyanchand award for lifetime achievement.
NRAI recommends Sidhu, Mittal
The national shooting federation recommended pistol ace Heena Sidhu and trap shooter Ankur Mittal for the award.
It also recommended Anjum Moudgil (rifle), Shahzar Rizvi (pistol) and Om Prakash Mitharwal (pistol) for the Arjuna award.
The first Indian pistol shooter to reach number one in the International Shooting Sport Federation world rankings, 29-year-old Sidhu is a multiple-time gold medallist at the World Cup, Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth and Asian Championships.
Mittal has been one of the most consistent Indian shooters in shotgun, having won silver and gold medals at the World Cups in 2017. He also won gold medals at the Asian Championships and Commonwealth Championships.
Panghal nominated again by BFI
The Boxing Federation of India has nominated Asian Games gold medallist Amit Panghal for the Arjuna award yet again after taking into consideration his remarkable performances this year.
Panghal, who claimed the light flyweight (49kg) category gold after defeating reigning Olympic champion Hasanboy Dusmatov of Uzbekistan in the Asiad final at Jakarta, was nominated last year as well for the second highest sporting honour after the Khel Ratna.
However, he was not considered due to a failed dope test in 2012, for which he served a one-year ban.
He started the year with a gold at Strandja memorial tournament in Bulgaria before moving up to 52kg. He clinched a gold in his new weight category in the Asian championship, beating Dusmatov again.
(with PTI inputs)