KOCHI: Some overdue recognition came home for Kerala sportspersons on Tuesday as a Kapil Dev-led jury recommended five from the state for this year’s Arjuna award. Former India captains Tom Joseph (volleyball) and Geethu Anna Jose (basketball got the nod along with Commonwealth Games medallist V Diju (badminton) and Asian Games medallists rower Saji Thomas and 800 m runner Tintu Luka. It is for the first time that five Kerala sportspersons have found their way into the final list for the coveted award.
Tom, considered India’s finest spiker since the late Jimmy George, is being recommended after being denied India’s second highest sports honour for nine straight years. Geethu, the nation’s first female basketball player to figure in a professional league abroad, in Australia, is getting it on her fifth nomination. So is the case with rower Saji Thomas who won two silver medals in the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.
“I’m delighted that my name has been recommended for the Arjuna award at least on the 10th occasion. I dedicate this award to the sports-loving people of Kerala who have given me so much love and respect over the years,” said Tom Joseph.
Geethu, who will be the first hoopster from the state to win the Arjuna, said: “When I started playing basketball, the only woman basketballer to have won the Arjuna award was Suman Sharma. It gives me great pleasure to be the first to win it in 15 years.”