Leander Paes and Pullela Gopichand were on Saturday selected for the prestigious Padma Bhushan awards, while Yuvraj Singh was among the seven sportspersons chosen for this year’s Padma Shri award.
Dipika Pallikal, former Indian women’s cricket captain Anjum Chopra, Sunil Dabas (Kabaddi), Love Raj Singh Dharmshaktu (Mountaineering), H. Boniface Prabhu (Wheelchair Tennis) and Mamta Sodha (Mountaineering) were the other sports persons, selected for this year’s Padma Shri awards.
40-year-old Paes, who had earlier being conferred Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Arjuna Awards, is the most successful tennis player of the country with 14 Grand Slam titles — eight men’s doubles and six mixed doubles.
Last season when he won his 14th major at US Open, he became the oldest players to win a Grand Slam title.
Paes, hero of India’s numerous Davis Cup wins, also won India’s first Olympic medal in singles at the Atlanta Games in 1996, when he won a bronze.
With compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi, he ruled the tennis world in the late 90s. They became the world number one team before parting ways.
Gopichand, one of the finest badminton players to have emerged from the country, is the second renowned sports personality to have been conferred with the Padma Bhushan honour this year.
He was conferred the Arjuna Award in 1999, Khel Ratna in 2001, Padma Shri in 2005 and Dronacharya in 2009 in a glittering career both as a player and a coach.
Gopi, as he is fondly called in the badminton circle, is only the second shuttler from India after Prakash Padukone to have won the prestigious All England Badminton Championships in 2001.
After quitting the game, Gopichand set up his own academy named ‘Gopichand Badminton Academy’ in Hyderabad, which produced the current crop of Indian badminton stars which include Saina Nehwal, Parupalli Kashyap, PV Sindhu, RMV Gurusai Datt among others.
Gopichand is also credited to have unearth Saina, the first Indian to win a medal in badminton at the Olympics when she bagged the bronze in the 2012 London Games.
Not in the Indian team of late, 32-year-old Yuvraj, was a vital member of India’s limited overs scheme of things.
Yuvraj, an Arjuna awardee, is a fighter to the core on and off the field and successfully overcame a rare germ-cell cancer in his left lung to make his comeback to the national team.
Dipika recently became the first Indian to enter the top 10 in the WSA rankings, the official women’s squash world rankings. She is engaged to Indian cricketer Dinesh Karthik.