For the first time four athletes including PV Sindhu (Badminton), Sakshi Malik (Wrestling), Dipa Karmakar (Gymnatics) and Jitu Rai (Shooting) were conferred with—India’s highest sporting honour—Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award on Monday. In a star-studded ceremony, President Pranab Mukherjee gave medals, certificates and cash prize worth Rs. 7.5 lakh to the each athlete.
PV Sindhu won the first Silver medal for India in the women’s singles tournament at the Rio Olympics. Haryana’s wrestler Sakshi Malik was the first athlete to win a medal for India at 2016 Olympics in the women’s 54 kg category. Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar gave an outstanding performance at the Olympics but missed the medal by a whisker as she ranked fourth in the tournament.
Shooter Jitu Rai has won several tournaments in past two years including gold at the Asian and Commonwealth Games along with a silver at the World Championship.
In the ceremony, 15 sportpersons were conferred with Arjuna Awards along with Rs. 5 lakh. The list of awardees includes Lalitha Babar (Long distance runner), Shiva Thapa (boxer), VR Raghunath and Rani Rampal (Indian hockey players), Subrata Paul (Footballer), Apurvi Chandela (Shooter), Neeraj Chopra (Javelin thrower) and Vinesh Phogat (Wrestling).
The President honoured six coaches with Dronacharya Award including Nagapuri Ramesh (Athletics), Sagar Mal Dhayal (Boxing), Raj Kumar Sharma (Cricket), Bishweshwar Nandi (Gymnastics), S Pradeep Kumar (Swimming), Mahabir Singh (Wrestling).
The most notable names to receive the Guru Dronacharaya award were Dipa Karmakar’s coach Bishweshwar Nandi and Virat Kohli’s cricket coach Raj Kumar Sharma.