Rohit Sharma and Vinesh Phogat were among the five chosen for the highest sporting honour of Khel Ratna while 27 athletes will get Arjuna Awards for 2020, the Sports Ministry on Friday confirmed.
The five Khel Ratna winners for this year would be cricketer Rohit Sharma, wrestler Vinesh Phogat, Rio Paralympics gold-medallist Mariyappan Thangavelu, table tennis player Manika Batra, and women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal, the ministry confirmed in a press release.
In a first, the awards will be held virtually on August 29 this year, the National Sports Day, instead of the Rashtrapati Bhavan due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Sports Ministry, however, decided against bestowing the Arjuna award on former Khel Ratna winners Sakshi Malik and Mirabai Chanu, pruning the list to 27 (from the initially recommended 29) but accepted an unprecedented five recommendations for the country’s highest sporting honour this year.
Last week, the Justice Mukundakam Sharma-led selection committee had recommended 29 names for the Arjuna Award to the Sports Ministry.
The list also included Rio Olympics bronze medal-winning wrestler Sakshi and 2017 weightlifting world champion Mirabai, but the decision on bestowing the Arjuna on them was left to the discretion of Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju. This was due to the fact that they had already won the Khel Ratna, the country’s highest sporting honour.
The criteria for the awards takes into consideration the athletes’ performances over a four-year period. A weightage of 80% is given to athletes winning medals at various international competitions with the remaining 20 per cent left to the discretion of the panel members.
Paddler Manika Batra’s recommendation for the Khel Ratna raised doubts as she has not won anything of note since the Arjuna award on the back of her exploits at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
During this period, her world ranking has slipped to 63, but the ministry decided against rejecting her recommendation. In a statement, Manika called the honour an “added responsibility”.
“This award is an added responsibility for me to continue performing well and I am looking forward to bring more laurels to the country,” Manika said. “It’s an honour for me to be named as one of the recipients of this year’s prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.”
The recommendation of Rani Rampal also raised questions even though she helped the Indian hockey team secure a berth at the Tokyo Olympics, besides leading the team into the final of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, where it lost to Japan 1-2.
The sports fraternity, though, lauded the Arjuna recommendation of Winter Olympic Games legend Shiva Keshavan, who has represented India six times in the luge event at the Games from 1998 to 2018.
Keshavan has won innumerable medals for India at the international level and has several world and Asian records to his name.
With the sports ministry pressing for recognition to indigenous sport, the Arjuna Award list also included an athlete from kho-kho – Sudhakar Sarika Kale.
Here’s a look at all the winners this year:
Winners of Khel Ratna Award
|Mariyappan Thangavelu||Para Athletics|
|Manika Batra||Table Tennis|
Winners of Arjuna Award
|Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy||Badminton|
|Chirag Chandrasekhar Shetty||Badminton|
|Sawant Ajay Anant||Equestrian|
|Kale Sarika Sudhakar||Kho Kho|
|Dattu Baban Bhokanal||Rowing|
|Madhurika Suhas Patkar||Table Tennis|
|Shiva Keshavan||Winter Sports|
|Suyash Narayan Jadhav||Para Swimming|
|Manish Narwal||Para Shooting|
Winners of Dronacharya Award (Lifetime)
|Krishan Kumar Hooda||Kabaddi|
|Vijay Bhalchandra Munishwar||Para Powerlifting|
|Om Parkash Dahiya||Wrestling|
Winners of Dronacharya Award (Regular)
|Jude Felix Sebastian||Hockey|
|Kuldeep Kumar Handoo||Wushu|
|Gaurav Khanna||Para Badminton|
Winners of Dhyan Chand Award
|Kuldip Singh Bhullar||Athletics|
|Pradeep Shrikrishna Gandhe||Badminton|
|Sukhvinder Singh Sandhu||Football|
|J Ranjith Kumar||Para Athletics|
|Satyaprakash Tiwari||Para Badminton|
|Nandan P Bal||Tennis|
(With inputs from PTI)