Sports Minister M.S. Gill’s much-promised “organised” show of the National Sports Awards presentation turned out to be in keeping with expectations at the Ashoka Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Unlike the chaos of varying degrees seen during the past few editions of this annual event, Saturday’s function went off smoothly with President Pratibha Patil conferring the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award to boxers M.C. Mary Kom, Vijender Singh and wrestler Sushil Kumar, apart from presenting Arjuna Awards, Dronacharya Awards and three other awards.
The Khel Ratna award, the nation’s highest sports honour, carries a medallion, Rs. 7.5 lakh and a scroll each.
Former badminton ace P. Gopi Chand, a past winner of the Khel Ratna and Arjuna awards, on this day received the Dronacharya Award and became the first to be honoured with the nation’s all three sports awards. Gopi, along with Jaydev Bisht (boxing), Baldev Singh (hockey) and Satpal (wrestling) received a trophy, Rs. five lakh and a scroll each.
What added to Gopi’s joy was the fact that his “trainee” Saina Nehwal was presented the Arjuna Award, which also comes with a trophy, Rs. five lakh and a scroll.
Gopi and Saina shared the view that a sportsperson works on his speciality and if good enough, awards and rewards follow. Saina said, “My job is to give my best on the court. When such recognition comes your way, you feel pleased and carry on with renewed vigour.”
Woman Grandmaster Tania Sachdev, who got the Arjuna award after ignored last year, said, “the award seems like a reward for all that you’ve done so far. This honour surely recharges my batteries to strive for something bigger and better and make my country proud.”
Poulomi Ghatak, too, was very happy that the award had come her way “at the right time.” She said, “It is so special to receive the award here (from the President at the Rashtrapati Bhawan).
The loudest cheers were reserved for Major H.P.S. Ahluwalia, one of the four recipients of the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award, honoured for his yeoman work in support of mountaineering and Himalayan adventure. The award carrries a bronze statuette, Rs. three lakh and a scroll.
The newly instituted Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar went to Tata Steel (for Community sports identification and nurturing of budding young talent & Establishment and Management of Sports Academies of Excellence) and Railways Sports Promotion Board (for Employment to Sportspersons and Sports Welfare Measures). Interestingly, Railway Minister Mamta Banerjee was present to receive the award.
The Maulana Abul Kalam Trophy for excellence in inter-university sports meet was retained by Patiala’s Punjabi University.
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (3): Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom (boxing), Vijender Singh (boxing) and Sushil Kumar (wrestling).
Arjuna Award (15): Mangal Singh Champia (archery), Sinimol Paulose (athletics), Saina Nehwal (badminton), L. Sarita Devi (boxing), Tania Sachdev (chess), Gautam Gambhir (cricket), Ignatius Tirkey (hockey), Surinder Kaur (hockey), Pankaj Shirsat (kabaddi), Satish Joshi (rowing), Ronjan Sodhi (shooting), Poulomi Ghatak (table tennis), Yogeshwar Dutt (wrestling), Girdhari Lal Yadav (yachting) and Parul Parmar (badminton, paralympic sport).
Dhyan Chand Award (2): Ishar Singh Deol (athletics) and Satbir Singh (wrestling).
Dronacharaya Award (4): Baldev Singh (hockey), Jaydev Bisht (boxing), Satpal (wrestling) and P. Gopi Chand (badminton).
Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar: Tata Steel and Railways Sports Promotion Board.
Tenzing Norgay Adventure Award: B. Shekar Babu (mountaineering), Ramakant (Air adventure), Chaitanya Datla (water adventure) and Major H.P.S. Ahluwalia (Life time achievement).
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy: Punjabi University, Patiala.