In just one stroke the Union Sports Ministry on Saturday managed to outscore the performances of shooter Ronjan Sodhi and boxer Vikas Krishan in 2011 by bringing in the Olympic medal-winning feats of shooter Vijay Kumar and wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt in the calculations to determine the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. We do not know yet for which year the awardees were chosen.

Once the Olympic medallists were brought on the table for discussion before a selection panel headed by Olympic silver-winning shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the others stood very little chance of being seriously considered.

They were considered, however. Sodhi and Vikas’s names did come up. And so did that of cricketer Rahul Dravid.

Sodhi should have been the front-runner. By all accounts he was till the ‘concession’ for the Olympic medallists was sprung. It was the ministry’s decision, though officially it has been attributed to the panel.

In an official release on Sunday, the ministry explained that the panel had recommended that the condition about one Khel Ratna awardee and 15 Arjuna awardees be relaxed considering that this was the Olympic year and India had won a record number of six medals in the London Games.

Could it not have suggested that there could be three ‘Khel Ratnas’ as was done in 2009 (for 2008) to honour Sushil Kumar and Vijender Singh along with Mary Kom, for her World championship-winning feat?

Array of achievements

Sodhi lost out, it was learnt, because he had not come up to expectations in the London Games. He tried his best, but it was not his day. He had an array of achievements in 2011, not just one “‘outstanding performance,” a World Cup gold in double trap in UAE apart from a World Cup silver and bronze.

If his current performance was being evaluated, though there was no room to do that within the rules, then his 2010 performance also should have been taken into consideration. He had the Asian Games gold and the Commonwealth Games silver.

Vikas Krishan had the World championship bronze in 2011 and the Asian Games gold in 2010. nfortunately, he had also applied for the Arjuna Award for which he was chosen.

There was no mention about the period for which the awards were being given and how that period was to be manipulated when the last date for ‘applications’ had expired on April 30 last.

Such a procedure was never adopted in the past. It was not done in 2008 when M.S. Dhoni was given the Khel Ratna (for 2007) and it was not done in 2004 when long jumper Anju Bobby George was awarded the ‘Ratna’ for her outstanding feat of a bronze medal — India’s lone medal to date — in the World Championships in Paris in 2003.

Guess who had an Olympic medal — a rare silver at that — when Anju was chosen for the prestigious award? Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore.

By the time Anju’s name was announced for the award on September 15, 2004, Rathore had become a bigger household name by winning the Olympic silver in double trap shooting in the Athens Games.

Along with Anju’s award came the announcement that Rathore was chosen for the Arjuna Award for his medal-winning performances in 2003 and 2002! Everyone knew that Rathore’s turn will come for the Khel Ratna; the shooter knew, too. And it did come the next year.

No fuss, no grumble

No one made a fuss; no one grumbled. The award was for a particular year. It still is. No one will grudge the Khel Ratna to Vijay Kumar and Yogeshwar. But spare a thought for those who missed out for no fault of theirs, just because they achieved success in the year preceding an Olympics.

The ‘excuse’ about Olympic year for enlarging the Arjuna awardees list is hollow. Barring shooter Joydeep Karmarkar, and to a lesser extent badminton player P. Kashyap, none of the others could have made the Arjuna awardees list on the strength of their Olympic performance.

Thirteen of them were not even at the Olympics including eight who belong to non-Olympic sports. Of the rest, a majority clinched it on the basis of their 2010 performance (Asian Games and Commonwealth Games) if not that in 2011.

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