Star shuttler Saina Nehwal, chosen for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, could not make it to the National Sports and Adventure Awards 2010 function as President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil honoured various sportspersons and coaches at the Rashtrapati Bhawan here on Sunday.

After Saina's quarterfinal exit in the World championship in Paris, there was speculation about the shuttler rushing from the French capital to attend the function.

Mrs. Patil honoured 15 sportspersons with the Arjuna award, five coaches with the Dronacharya award, three with Dhyan Chand award (for lifetime achievement in sports), four with the Tenzing Norgay award and three institutions with the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar.

Emotional moment

Of all the awardees, it was an overwhelmingly emotional moment for veteran athletics coach A.K. Kutty, the coach of Asian Games gold medallist hurdler M.D. Valsamma and Asiad silver medal winning long jumper Mercy Kuttan nee Matthew, as his son and daughter stood up to cheer him.

“It is better late than never. It happened because of the change in rule (to honour two persons with Dronacharya award for life-time contribution),” said 72-year-old Kutty.

Amid all the negativity surrounding hockey, one coach (A.K. Bansal) and two players (Sandeep Singh and Jasjeet Kaur Handa) getting Dronacharya and Arjuna awards was a morale-boosting factor for the fraternity.

Bansal — the man who groomed players like Dilip Tirkey, Gagan Ajit Singh, Devesh Chauhan, William Xalxo and Diwakar Ram — dedicated his award to his students. “It is because of them that I have got the award. My days in the tribal-populated Sundargarh have a big contribution in it,” Bansal said.

Jasjeet, part of the Indian team playing the women's World Cup in Argentina, could not attend the function.

Deepak Kumar Mondal, the first footballer to receive the Arjuna award after a gap of eight years, said more football players deserved to get the honour. “This will spur me and other players to do better,” he said.

A few surprises were in store at the function as Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan rose to collect Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar for Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) and Madhya Pradesh Khel Evam Yuva Vibhag respectively.

Union Sports Minister had a suggestion to give to boost different sports. Talking to reporters, he said big corporate houses should come forward to develop sports and recruit sportspersons.

List of awardees:

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award: Saina Nehwal (badminton).

Arjuna award: Joseph Abraham (athletics), Krishna Poonia (athletics), Dinesh Kumar (boxing), Parimrajan Negi (chess), Jhulan Goswami (cricket), Deepak Kumar Mandal (football), Sandeep Singh (hockey), Jasjeet Kaur Handa (hockey), Dinesh Kumar (kabaddi), Sanjeev Rajput (shooting), Rehan Poncha (swimming), Kapil Dev K.J. (volleyball), Rajeev Tomar (wrestling), Rajesh Chaudhary (yachting), Jagseer Singh (paralympic-athletics).

Dronacharya award: A.K. Kutty (lifetime-athletics), Subhash Aggarwal (billiards and snooker), L. Ibomcha Singh (boxing), Ajay Kumar Bansal (hockey), Capt. Chandrup (lifetime-wrestling).

Dhyan Chand award: Satish Pillai (athletics), Kuldeep Singh (wrestling), Anita Chanu (weightlifting).

Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar: Services Sports Control Board (Community sports identification and nurturing of budding and young talent), Tata Steel Limited (Financial support for sports excellence), Khel Evam Yuva Vibhag, Government of Madhya Pradesh (Establishment and management of sports academies of excellence) and Services Sports Control Board (Employment of sportsperson and sports welfare measures).

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad trophy: Punjabi University, Patiala (2008-09), Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar (2009-10).

Tenzing Norgay National Adventure award: H.C. Kamlesh Kumar Bounthiyal (land), Wing Commander Jai Kishan (air), Sufyan Shaikh (water), Chandraprabha Aitwal (life-time achievement).

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