CHENNAI : With the deadline for sending nominations for the Arjuna and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awards lapsing on Wednesday, a number of athletes who brought the country laurels at the Commonwealth and Asian Games are set to be rewarded. Nominations were initially supposed to be sent by April 27, but the ministry had since extended the deadline to include CWG and Asiad medal winners.
According to a top wrestling official, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia, who both won gold medals at the Asian Games and CWG, have been recommended for the Khel Ratna while names of five other wrestlers have been forwarded for Arjuna consideration. A surprise inclusion for the Arjuna award is of sailor Varsha Gautham who won silver in 49erFX event in Palembang. However, her name was not recommended by the Yachting Association of India but by Indian Olympic Association.
Also among the beneficiaries is boxer Amit Panghal who was included alongside Sonia Lather and Gaurav Bidhuri after he had won a gold at the Asian Games.It has been learnt that the Table Tennis Federation of India has nominated Manika Batra, G Sathiyan and Harmeet Desai for the Arjuna award while Manika’s name has also been proposed for Khel Ratna. A Sharath Kamal’s name has been forwarded for consideration for Padma Shri.
Another athlete who has benefited from the deadline extension is shooter Rahi Sarnobat who wasn’t initially in the National Rifle Association of India’s list. Her Asiad gold though prompted a rethink and she was included alongside Ankur Mittal and Sreyashi Singh. The name of Harish Kumar, part of the bronze-winning Sepak Takraw team in Palembang, has been recommended alongside two others, while the team’s coach Hemraj has been included in the Dronacharya list. While no additions have been made in the All India Tennis Association list, Asiad gold-winner Rohan Bopanna has been nominated for an Arjuna alongside Yuki Bhambri. CV Nagraj has been nominated for Dronacharya.
Outside of Asiad participants, the BCCI has recommended Shikhar Dhawan and Smriti Mandhana for Arjuna while Sunil Gavaskar’s name has been forwarded for the Dhyan Chand award for lifetime achievement. Delhi coach Tarak Sinha’s name has also been forwarded for Dronacharya, albeit privately. All individual gold medallists in athletics at the Asian Games have been recommended for Arjuna. Neeraj Chopra seems to be a strong contender for Khel Ratna.
The All India Football Federation has recommended Sunil Chhetri’s name for Padma Shri while the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India has forwarded Gaurav Gill’s name for a third successive year. Gill was not conferred the award the previous two times.(With inputs from Indraneel Das, Vishnu Prasad, Swaroop Swaminathan, Venkata Krishna B, Anmol Gurung & TN Vimal Sankar)