Recognition by the nation may be the ultimate honour for a citizen, but today's sportspersons are far too accomplished and intense in their focus that they are not so easily overwhelmed at receiving the national sports awards.
Obviously, the awards help in increasing their level of motivation, but the athletes are quite professional in understanding the basic fact that if you stick to the task of pursuing excellence on the international stage, awards take care of themselves.
‘'I am very, very happy that I have got it finally,” said Gagan Narang, after receiving the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award from the President Pratibha Patil, at the Rashtrapati Bhawan here on Monday.
“My focus has always been on the sport, and it will continue to be so. It feels great to get two awards the same year,” said Narang, who had also been bestowed with the honour of Padma Shri.
Narang, who received Rs.7.50 lakh along with the award, said that he was busy tuning himself for his third Olympics and hoped that the Olympic year would be a lot better for him than the recent years.
Though the number of Arjuna awards was increased to 19 this year, there may be many feeling left out, as it was not possible to acknowledge every worthy performance at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games last year.
Narang himself summed up the situation beautifully after a galaxy of prominent sportspersons received the Arjuna award, by saying that everyone had international medals and lengthy citations, as he hinted that it was perhaps not so in the case of many in 2005 when he received the Arjuna award.
It was a double delight for swimmer Virdhawal Khade as he received the award on his birthday.
Looking ahead, the 20-year-old Khade said that he needed to become doubly strong to fare better, but conceded that it was not easy and that he would slowly get there.
Boxer Suranjoy Singh said that he was thrilled with the award, but assured that he would continue to fight harder in the ring to achieve better results.
Athlete Preeja Sreedharan who had won a gold and a silver in the Asian Games last year, was very happy, but said that she would make up for missing out on the ongoing World championship with better performances in future.
World champion and World record-holder, shooter Tejaswini Sawant said that she felt proud about the award and would work harder.
Hockey captain Rajpal Singh was equally elated and said that he was confident that Indian hockey was moving towards a bright future.
Footballer Sunil Chhetri felt honoured and said that he was away last year and thus did not feel disappointed about being wrongly mentioned then as selected for the award by a section of the media.
Rahul Banerjee (archery), G. Jwala (badminton), Rakesh Kumar and Tejeswini Bai (kabaddi), Sanjay Kumar (volleyball), Ravinder Singh (wrestling), K. Ravikumar (weightlifting), Sandhyarani Devi (wushu), Prasanta Karmakar (paralympics) were the others who received the Arjuna award and Rs. 5 lakh cash award.
Tennis star Somdev Devvarman, athlete Vikas Gowda, gymnast Ashish Kumar and cricketer Zaheer Khan were unable to make it as they were either competing internationally or owing to unavoidable circumstances.
Coaches Kuntal Kumar Roy (athletics), I. Venkateshwara Rao (boxing), Devender Kumar Rathore (gymnastics), Rajinder Singh Jr. (hockey) and Ram Phal (wrestling) received the Dronacharya award.
Shabbir Ali (football), Sushil Kohli (swimming) and Raj Kumar (wrestling) were presented the Dhyan Chand award.
Reena Kaushal, Mamta Sodha, Dilip Donde and Balwant Singh Sandhu (posthumous) were presented the Tenzing Norgay national adventure award.
The Petroleum Sports Promotion Board was presented the ‘Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar' and the award was received by the PSPB president, N.M. Borah.
N. Ramachandran, President, WSF, was also presented the award, for establishing and managing the squash academy in Chennai.
Quite notably the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad trophy, given to the best University for its sports achievements in an academic year, was not presented for the first time in 54 years since its inception, as the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) had reportedly failed to finalise the winner.