CHENNAI: A few days prior to the first-ever virtual National Sports Awards function on Saturday, the list of award winners got pruned by nine, with three of them testing positive for coronavirus.
Shuttler Satwiksairaj Rankireddy is one among them.
Among the nine, cricketers Rohit Sharma (Khel Ratna) and Ishant Sharma (Arjuna) will not attend the ceremony as they are in the UAE.
"There are 74 awards in seven categories. Total 65 award winners will be attending the function from various locations. Nine award winners will not attend due to several reasons like being quarantined, tested positive, ill-health or not in the country etc," a Sports Authority of India (SAI) statement said.
The awardees underwent Covid-19 tests before attending a rehearsal for the function at 11 designated centres across the country on Thursday. It was also learnt that trophies, statuettes and medallions will be handed to the winners at a later date as the sports ministry is planning to organise a function once the situation gets normal.
The recipients have received blazers and will be given certificates during the ceremony. "We did a full dress rehearsal at Delhi's Vigyan Bhavan on Thursday. The attendees followed safety protocols including social distancing norm. I underwent Covid-19 test and returned negative," Winter Olympian Shiva Keshavan, who will be conferred Arjuna award, told the New Indian Express.
As many as 11 SAI and NIC centres have been chosen for the function wherein President Ram Nath Kovind will present the awards to the winners. Kovind will be attending the event through NIC link from the President's house via video conference.
"I was tested in the morning before attending the rehearsal in Pune," said wrestler Rahul Aware, who will be given Arjuna award. Woman wrestler Divya Kakran, who too will be conferred Arjuna, was also tested for the virus before the rehearsal in Delhi.
Boxing coach Shiv Singh, who will receive Dronacharya award in lifetime category, however, got tested a couple of days ago. He along with her ward Lovlina Borgohain will attend the function in Chandigarh. Lovlina travelled to Chandigarh from NIS Patiala to attend the function and headed back in the evening.
"All health and safety protocols, in keeping with the guidelines of the health ministry, are being followed at all the venues where dignitaries and awardees will be present. All centres have been thoroughly sanitized and arrangements have been made to ensure social distancing during the awards function," added the SAI statement.