Cuban coach Blas Iglesias Fernandez on Friday became the first foreign coach in India to be awarded the Dronacharya Award.

The Sports Ministry announced that Fernandez along with Yashvir Singh, coach of two-time Olympic medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar, and former national hockey coach Harendra Singh will be presented the prestigious Dronacharya Award.

Discus thrower Krishan Poonia’s husband Virendra, women’s kabbadi coach Sunil Dabas and para athletics’ Satyapal Singh have also been recommended for the award.

Table tennis coach Bhawani Mukherjee and J.S. Bhatia (athletics) have been recognised in the lifetime achievement category.

Fernandez, who has been with the boxing team for almost two decades, will be become the first foreigner to receive India’s highest honour for coaching excellence at the August 29 felicitation ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Usually, not more than five individuals are picked for the award but the government increased the number to eight this time around considering coaches’ contribution in the recently-concluded London Olympics and Paralympic Games beginning next week.

The Dhyan Chand award, given for lifetime contribution to sports development, went to Jagraj Singh Mann (athletics), Gundeep Kumar (hockey), Vinod Kumar (wrestling), Sukhbir Singh Tokas (para-sports).

Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar, introduced from 2009 to recognise the contribution made to sports development by entities other than sportspersons and coaches, will be given to Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL), Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB), Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) and Air India Sports Promotion Board.

The selection committee for Dronacharya Award was headed by Aslam Sher Khan, a former hockey Olympian, while P.K. Deb, Secretary (Sports) chaired the panel for the Dhyan Chand and Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar awards.

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