Olympic silver medallist shooter Vijay Kumar and bronze medal-winning wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt basked in the glory of the London Games, while Yuvraj Singh, the hero of India’s cricket World Cup victory, celebrated his successful battle against cancer at the National Sports Awards 2012 function here on Wednesday.
Vijay and Yogeshwar received the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award — containing a medal, ceremonial dress, a certificate and a cash prize of Rs. 7.5 lakh — from President Pranab Mukherjee in a packed Ashoka Hall at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. Since 2009, when three sportspersons (boxers M.C. Mary Kom, Vijender Singh and wrestler Sushil Kumar) bagged the honour, more than one athlete has won the award in a particular year.
Vijay and Yogeshwar, tired of attending endless felicitation functions following their feats in the London Games, were nevertheless overwhelmed to get the National honour.
“It is a dream come true for me. The award brings more responsibility. We are getting a lot of attention and honour (after our success in the Olympics). However, after a few days things will be normal and we will be back to our training,” said Vijay.
Yogeshwar said, “I am thrilled. I had the desire to win the Olympic medal and I achieved it. This award is also a big honour. This will motivate me to do better in the Rio Olympics.”
Among the Arjuna awardees, Yuvraj was the most sought-after sportsperson. “It is a huge honour, a big achievement. Any sportsperson would love his effort to be recognised. It was great to meet so many sportspersons.”
Geeta Phogat, the first woman wrestler to qualify for the Olympics, said her Arjuna award would inspire youngsters. “There are a lot of girls who are taking up wrestling. Like my Olympic qualification, this too will motivate them.”
The Arjuna award carries a statuette, a certificate, ceremonial dress and a cash prize of Rs. 5 lakh. Yashvir Singh, who shaped the careers of Olympic medallists Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar, had no qualms that the Dronacharya award had been eluding him for some time. “It feels good that my effort has been recognised.”
B.I. Fernandez, the boxing coach from Cuba who has been working with the Indian boxers for the last 22 years, was thrilled to get the Dronacharya award. “This honour was only given to Indians. Therefore, I never expected to receive it. It has been a long journey and a rewarding one. Being the first foreign coach to receive it makes it all the more special,” he said.
Each Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand awardee gets a statuette, a certificate, ceremonial dress and a cash prize of Rs. 5 lakh.
For the second consecutive year, the Union Sports Ministry was unable to select the winner for the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy in time.
List of awardees:
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award: Vijay Kumar (shooting), Yogeshwar Dutt (wrestling).
Arjuna award: Deepika Kumari, Laishram Bombayla Devi (all archery), Sudha Singh, Kavita Raut (athletics), Ashwini Ponnappa, Parupalli Kashyap (badminton), Aditya Mehta (billiards and snooker), Vikas Krishan (boxing), Yuvraj Singh (cricket), Sardar Singh (hockey), Yashpal Solanki (judo), Anup Kumar (kabaddi), Samir Suhag (polo), Annu Raj Singh, Omkar Singh and Joydeep Karmakar (all shooting), Deepika Pallikal (squash), Sandeep Sejwal (swimming), Ng. Sonia Chanu (weightlifting), Narsingh Yadav, Rajinder Kumar and Geeta Phogat (all wrestling), M. Bimoljit Singh (wushu), Deepa Mallick, Ramkaran Singh (Paralympics-athletics).
Dronacharya award: Virender Poonia (athletics), Sunil Dabas (kabaddi-women), Yashvir Singh (wrestling), Harendra Singh (hockey), B.I. Fernandez (boxing), Dr. Satyapal Singh (Parasports-athletics); Life-time Achievement: J.S. Bhatia (athletics), Bhawani Mukherjee (table tennis).
Dhyan Chand award: Jagraj Singh Mann (athletics), Gundeep Kumar (hockey), Vinod Kumar (wrestling), Sukhbir Singh Tokas (Parasports).
Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar: Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL), Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB), Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) and Air India Sports Promotion Board (AISPB).