CHENNAI: Images of coach Kuldeep Malik carrying wrestler Sakshi Malik on his shoulders after the latter pocketed 58kg bronze in the 2016 Rio Olympics have been etched in the memories of many even after five years. By doing so, Sakshi had become the first Indian woman wrestler to win an Olympic medal. She was fittingly awarded Khel Ratna Award for her feat in the same year.
Ironically, the coach has not been bestowed with Dronacharya Award even after applying for the same for the past five years. In these five years, he has coached umpteen number of women wrestlers, who had won medals in the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Championships, apart from qualifying for Tokyo 2020. The reason: Kuldeep had received Dhyanchand Award for his sporting achievements in 2010. The eligibility criteria say the recipient of the Dhyanchand Award will not be eligible to apply for Dronacharya Award.
“I was awarded Dhyanchand Award for my sporting achievements as I not only competed for the country in the 1988 Seoul Olympics but also won medals in international events like Asian and Commonwealth Championships. In nationals, I had won three gold, as many silver and two bronze medals,” Kuldeep told this daily.
He has been coach the national women’s team since 2013. During his tenure as the coach, women wrestlers have won a hatful of medals in the 2014 and 2018 CWG and Asian Games. They also won worlds medals, apart from finishing on the podium in several international meets.
“I deserve Dronacharya. Till 2001, lifetime Arjuna Award was conferred but it was rechristened as Dhyanchand Award the next year and I was given the same, recognising my services to the country. However, the criteria mean I cannot be awarded now as a coach no matter how many medallists I produce. I had written to the secretary of the sports last year while applying for the award but to no avail. I have applied for the award this year again for the sixth consecutive time. I hope they consider my candidature this time,” he said.
Minister-in-charge for Youth Affairs and Sports will be the competent authority for the relaxation of any clause, provided there are sufficient reasons (to be recorded in writing) for doing so, read the criteria.