CHENNAI: The Arjuna award snub must have hurt, but what hurt these athletes more was the way their names were struck off the list.
Wrestler Sakshi Malik and weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, former Khel Ratna winners both, were not considered for Arjuna this year by the sports ministry, after the selection committee recommended their names. The duo had already received calls from Sports Authority of India (SAI) asking for measurements for the ceremonial blazer.
"I received a call from SAI regarding blazer measurement," Sakshi, the 2016 Rio Olympic bronze medallist, told this daily. "Arjuna award would have been a big motivation. Anyway, I have to train harder now to achieve future goals," the 27-year-old added.
Like Sakshi, 2017 weightlifting World Champion Mirabai also got a call from SAI. It was announced by the sports ministry that these two were not considered for Arjuna because they had already received Khel Ratna, which is the highest sporting award of the country. The initial list of 29 for Arjuna had also raised eyebrows, given that there is a limit of 20 on this award. Finally, the list has 27 names.
"There should be a clear guideline in this regard so that an athlete knows whether he/she is eligible to apply for the award or not. Even in the absence of such guideline, the athletes could have been informed about the decision in advance. But there seems to be no logic in removing names, especially after making the list public," said a source associated with the weightlifting camp.
Miffed with the decision, Sakshi had posted a letter online on Friday addressing the Prime Minister and sports minister. “I am proud to have been conferred the Khel Ratna. Every sportsperson dreams of winning all the awards. A sportsperson puts her life at risk for it. I also dream of seeing 'Arjuna award winner' against my name,” she had tweeted. “What more medal do I get for the country so that I be honoured with the Arjuna award. Or in this wrestling life, I would never have the good luck of winning this award?” the letter further read.
Speaking on her public outburst, Sakshi said, "I wrote what I felt was right. Now, it depends on the government whether it will consider my request or not. This episode, however, will not affect my training."