CHENNAI: He might have been ignored in the last two years, but the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) is not giving up on javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra. His name has once again been recommended for the country’s top sports award, the Khel Ratna.
This time the federation is optimistic that the 22-year-old thrower has a definite chance to receive it, given the resume he commends.
Speaking to New Indian Express, AFI president Adille Sumariwalla said, "he has been a consistent athlete in the last few years. He is one of those talents who has achieved a lot in his short career. He is a world junior champion, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Asian Championships champ. He deserves it. It is rare that someone who has done well in world junior wins gold in the Asian and Commonwealth Games. He is the most deserving nomination this time.”
Apart from Neeraj for Khel Ratna, the AFI recommended two men, Arpinder Singh (long jump) and Manjit Singh (800m), and two women Duttee Chand (sprinter) and PU Chitra (middle distance) for Arjuna Awards.
For Dronacharya Awards it is deputy chief national coach Radhakrishnan Nair. Though some pointed out that he should not be given credit for Neeraj Chopra’s performance as mentioned in the commendation, the AFI felt he was the one who spotted Neeraj and trained him in his early stint. Like Neeraj, he too was rejected for the award last year.
“He is one of the most accomplished coaches we have who looks after entire athletics teams in Ooty, Bengaluru and Patiala,” said an AFI top official. “He conducts coaching clinics for coaches and has been associated with coaching for a long time. Under him, the team won a record number of medals in Asian Games in Jakarta and even at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.”
The AFI also said in its commendation that he is the only coach to have an International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Programme of the International Olympic Committee.