Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Union Government has decided to honour the Beijing Olympic Games bronze medal-winners Sushil Kumar and Vijender Singh along with woman boxer M. C. Mary Kom with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.

The official announcement by the Union Sports Ministry on Wednesday stated: “…taking into consideration the spectacular performance of Vijender in boxing and Sushil Kumar in wrestling, both bronze medalists in Beijing Olympic Games…” the Government had accepted the recommendation of the selection committee to confer the award on both of them “as a special case in addition to M. C. Mary Kom.”

Each Khel Ratna awardee would receive Rs. 7.5 lakh, the enhanced cash component of the award, apart from a medal and a citation.

Twice in the past the Khel Ratna award was shared, once for a team event (yachtsmen Homi Motiwala and P. K. Garg in 1994) and on another occasion between an athlete and a shooter (K.M. Beenamol and Anjali Bhagwat in 2002). But never before had the award been given to three sportspersons.

There could have been very little choice for the ministry after the panel, headed by former table tennis champion Indu Puri, named Mary Kom and recommended Sushil and Vijender for special consideration.

However, doubts could have remained, since in 2002 the ministry had returned the recommendation of the panel for giving the award jointly to Beenamol and Anjali.

The panel then met again and chose Beenamol, though eventually both were conferred the honour. Not just that the Government also relented and gave away Arjuna Award to 21 sportspersons instead of the normal ‘quota’ of 15.

From among those initially recommended by the panels — the Dronacharya panel was headed by Olympian athlete Gurbachan Singh Randhawa — wheelchair tennis player B. Prabhu (disabled category) and kabaddi coach Udayakumar who was recommended for the Dronacharya Award, have been omitted. Parul D. Parmar, a woman badminton player has been included in Arjuna awardees list in the disabled category.

The ministry, it is learnt, was not satisfied with the case of Prabhu when papers were further scrutinised while Udayakumar’s name was dropped on disciplinary grounds.

The Arjuna, Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand awardees will get Rs. 5 lakh each this year, enhanced from the previous Rs. 3 lakh, apart from statuettes and citations while the newly-introduced Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar winners will receive trophies and citations.

The awards will be presented by the President, Partibha Patil, at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, on August 29. From this year onwards the award would be known by the year in which it is awarded.

The awardees: Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: M.C. Mary Kom (women’s boxing), Vijender Singh (boxing) and Sushil Kumar (wrestling).

Arjuna Award: Mangal Singh Champia (archery), Sinimole Paulose (athletics), Saina Nehwal (badminton), L. Sarita Devi (women’s boxing), Tania Sachdev (chess), Gautam Gambhir (cricket), Ignace Tirkey (hockey), Surinder Kaur (women’s hockey), Pankaj Navnath Shirsat (kabaddi), Satish Joshi (rowing), Ronjan Sodhi (shooting), Poulomi Ghatak (table tennis), Yogeshwar Dutt (wrestling), Girdhari Lal Yadav (yachting) and Parul D. Parmar (badminton, disabled).

Dronacharya Award: P. Gopi Chand (badminton), Jaydev Bisht (boxing), Baldev Singh (hockey) and Satpal (wrestling).

Dhyan Chand Award: Ishar Singh Deol (athletics) and Satbir Singh Dahya (wrestling).

Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar: Tata Steel Limited (two awards, community sports identification and nurturing of budding talent and establishment and management of sports academies); Railway Sports Promotion Board (employment of sportspersons and sports welfare measures).

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