President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday gave away the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award to former India hockey team captain Sardar Singh and Paralympics double gold medallist and world record holder Devendra Jhajharia at a function at Rashtrapati Bhawan here on the occasion of National Sports Day.
Jhajharia won gold in men’s javelin F46 event at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens with a then world record distance of 62.15 metres, eclipsing the previous mark of 59.77m.
It was the first gold medal for India at the Paralympics since Murlikant Petkar finished at the top of the podium in men’s 50m freestyle swimming at Heidelberg, Germany, in 1972.
Jhajharia repeated the feat at the Rio Paralympics last year, winning the gold and rewriting his own eight-year world record with a throw of 63.97m.
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna
Jhajharia is the first para-athlete to be honoured with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna — the highest sports award in the country.
Sardar, meanwhile, became the second hockey star to be conferred the Khel Ratna after the legendary Dhanraj Pillay who received the award in the year 2000.
Sardar, who made his international debut against arch-rivals Pakistan in 2006, named captain of the Indian hockey squad after the debacle at the 2012 Olympics in London where the team finished last in the 12-nation field.
With Sardar as captain, India won gold at the 2014 Asian Games and the continental title at the 2007 Asian Cup. He also led the national team to the bronze medal at the Hockey World League in 2015.
The 31-year-old from Sirsa district of Haryana included in the 18-member FIH All-Star team in 2010 and 2011.
Cricketers Harmanpreet Kaur and Cheteshwar Pujara along with Paralympians Mariyappan Thangavelu and Varun Singh Bhati and star athlete Rajiv Arokia were among 17 sportspersons to receive the prestigious Arjuna Awards this year.
Thangavelu won gold in the men’s high jump T-42 category at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. He earlier awarded the Padma Shri in January this year.
Bhati took bronze at the 2016 Paralympics in the men’s high jump T-42 category.
Arokia enjoyed an excellent outing at the Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneshwar last month. He won gold in the men’s 4x400m relay and ended up with the silver in the men’s 400m. He had also taken bronze in the 400m at the Asian Games in 2014.
Harmanpreet rewarded for her performance at the recently concluded ICC Women’s World Cup. The experienced batter smashed an unbeaten 171 runs off just 115 balls to help India beat the formidable Australia in the semi-finals.
That innings made Harmanpreet the record holder for the highest individual score for India at the women’s World Cup. It is also the second-highest score by an Indian batter in women’s one-day internationals, behind Deepti Sharma’s 188.
Pujara, who played his 51st Test match in Sri Lanka last week, has been in good form with the bat in recent times. He became the third quickest Indian batsman to reach 4,000 Test runs during his 50th match in the longest format in Colombo.
The others named for the Arjuna Award are Saketh Myneni (tennis), Jyoti Surekha Vennam (archery), Khushbir Kaur (athletics), Prashanti Singh (basketball), S.V. Sunil (hockey), S.S.P. Chaurasia (golf), Satyavrat Kadian (wrestling), Anthony Amalraj (table tennis), P.N. Prakash (shooting), Jasvir Singh (kabaddi), Laishram Devendro Singh (boxing) and Oinam Bembem Devi (football).
The recipients of this year’s Dronacharya Awards, which honours coaches with notable achievements in their respective fields are Late R. Gandhi (athletics), Heera Nand Kataria (kabaddi), G.S.S.V. Prasad (badminton, lifetime), Brij Bhushan Mohanty (boxing, lifetime), P.A. Raphel (hockey, lifetime), Sanjoy Chakraverthy (shooting, lifetime) and Roshan Lal (wrestling, lifetime).
The Dhyan Chand Award has given to Bhupender Singh (athletics), Syed Shahid Hakim (football) and Sumarai Tete (hockey).
Apart from a medal and a citation, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardees will receive a cash prize of Rs 7.5 lakh. Arjuna, Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand awardees will receive statuettes, certificates and cash prize of Rs five lakh each.
The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award are given for performance over a period of four years. The Dronacharya Award honours coaches for producing medal winners at the international level while the Dhyan Chand Award is given for life time contribution to sports development.