A thunderous applause greeted London Olympic heroes, Vijay Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, as they jointly received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award — country’s highest sporting honour — in a glittering ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, here today.
An unprecedented 25 sportspersons, including cricketer Yuvraj Singh, were conferred with the Arjuna Award by President Pranab Mukherjee in the presence of a host of Ministers, dignitaries and sports celebrities.
Pistol shooter Vijay had won silver in the 25m rapid fire event at the London Games, while wrestler Yogeshwar bagged a bronze in 60kg free style event. Both the medallists collected the trophy that consists of a medal, citation and cash prize of Rs 7.5 lakh each.
“It’s the biggest award that I have received in my career. I am really excited and feeling proud. I would like to maintain my Olympic form into the next big events like Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. I will begin my practice at Mhow from next month,” said Vijay.
The 29-year-old Yogeshwar, who had injured his right eye during bouts at the London Games, gave credit to his ‘gurus’ and parents for helping him chase and realise his dream of winning an Olympic medal.
“It is a great occasion for us and the happiest moment of our lives. It is a proud moment for me. I am thankful to the people of the country and to all my well wishers who have shown great faith in me,” he said.
The choices were made by a selection committee headed by 2004 Olympics silver-medallist shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and comprised noted sportspersons such as Akhil Kumar (boxing), Khajan Singh (swimming) and Bhaichung Bhutia (football) among others besides a few bureaucrats.
Normally only one sports person is awarded the Khel Ratna but the scheme provides that this condition can be relaxed in exceptional circumstances like winning of an Olympic medal.
Yuvraj, who is preparing to stage a comeback after recovering from a rare germ cell cancer, also received the award amidst a rousing reception with hordes of cameramen capturing his moment of glory.
“It’s a special award for me. I had been nominated few times but finally I got it this time. It’s a proud moment for me and my family. The award will give me a lot of confidence to make a comeback and perform well,” said Yuvraj.
Hockey mid-fielder Sardar Singh, wrestlers Geeta Phogat, and Narsingh Yadav, shooters Annu Raj Singh and Omkar Singh, shuttlers P Kashyap and Ashwini Ponappa, archers Deepika Kumari and Bombayla Devi were among Arjuna Award winners this year.
The loudest applause was reserved for the Arjuna Award winning para-athlete, Deepa Malik and Ramkaran Singh.
Generally, not more than 15 Arjuna awards are given in a calendar year but an exception has been made this time because it is an Olympics year.
India won six medals including two silver and four bronze medals in London, which is the country’s best performance in Olympic Games.
Apart from Vijay and Yogeshwar, wrestler Sushil Kumar won silver in the men’s 66kg freestyle event while MC Mary Kom settled for a bronze in boxing in women’s 51kg category at the London Games.
Ace shuttler Saina Nehwal and shooter Gagan Narang also made the country proud with their bronze medal-winning feats, doubling India’s medals tally from the Beijing edition where it had won three medals.
Dronacharya Award, the top recognition for coaches in the country, was conferred on eight including Virender Poonia (Athletics), Sunil Dabas (Kabaddi), Yashvir Singh (Wrestling), Harendra Singh (Hockey), Satyapal Singh (Para Sports (Athletics), J S Bhatia (Athletics, for Life Time achievement), Bhawani Mukherjee (Table Tennis, for Life Time achievement) and B I Fernandez (Boxing, foreign coach).
Fernandez became the first foreign coach to receive Dronacharya Award after the selection committee, headed by Olympian Aslam Sher Khan, took into account his outstanding contribution in the performance of the Indian boxers at the international sporting events including Olympics.
The Arjuna and Dronacharya awardees got statuettes, citations and cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each.
Dhyan Chand Award, given for the life-time contribution to sports development, was conferred on Jagraj Singh Mann (Athletics), Gundeep Kumar (Hockey), Vinod Kumar (Wrestling) and Sukhbir Singh Tokas (Para-Sports).
The award carries a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh, a statuette and a citation.
Union Sports Minister, Ajay Maken was among the dignitaries present on the occasion.
List of awardees:
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award: Vijay Kumar (Shooting) and Yogeshwar Dutt (Wrestling).
Arjuna Awards: Deepika Kumari (Archery), Laishram Bombayla Devi (Archery), Sudha Singh (Athletics), Kavita Ramdas Raut (Athletics), Ashwani Ponnappa (Badminton), Parupalli Kashyap (Badminton), Aditya S Mehta (Billiards and Snooker), Vikas Krishan (Boxing), Yuvraj Singh (Cricket), Sardar Singh (Hockey), Yashpal Solanki (Judo), Anup Kumar (Kabaddi), Samir Suhag (Polo), Annu Raj Singh (Shooting), Omkar Singh (Shooting), Joydeep Karmakar (Shooting), Deepika Pallikal (Squash), Sandeep Sejwal (Swimming), Ng. Sonia Chanu (Weightlifting), Narsingh Yadav (Wrestling), Rajinder Kumar (Wrestling), Geeta Phogat (Wrestling), M. Bimoljit Singh (Wushu), Deepa Mallick (Athletics — Paralympics), Ramkaran Singh (Athletics — Paralympics).
Dronacharya Awards: Virender Poonia (Athletics), Sunil Dabas (Kabaddi), Yashvir Singh (Wrestling), Harendra Singh (Hockey), Satyapal Singh (Para Sports (Athletics), J S Bhatia (Athletics, for Life Time achievement), Bhawani Mukherjee (Table Tennis, for Life Time achievement) and B I Fernandez (Boxing).
Dhyan Chand Awards: Jagraj Singh Mann (Athletics), Gundeep Kumar (Hockey), Vinod Kumar (Wrestling) and Sukhbir Singh Tokas (Para—Sports).
Tenzing Norgay advanture awards: Col. Anand Swaroop, SM (Land Adventure), Sub. Rajendra Singh Jalal (Land Adventure), Bhakti Sharma (Water Adventure), Mandip Singh Soin (Life Time Achievement).
Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar: Community Sports Identification and Nurturing of Budding Young Talent — Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), Financial Support for Sports Excellence — Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB), Establishment and Management of Sports Academies of Excellence — Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) and Employment of Sportspersons and Sports Welfare Measures — Air India Sports Promotion