Winners beam as controversies linger


Jhajharia, who had been a recipient of Arjuna Award (2004) and Padma Shri (2012), became the first para-athlete to receive the country’s highest sporting honour. “It is a great honour. It always feels nice when your achievements are acknowledged.

“It was all the more special to have my fellow athletes Mariyappan Thangavelu and Varun Bhati winning the Arjuna awards and sharing the stage with me,” said the 36-year-old, who is the only Indian to win two Paralympic gold medals in javelin in 2004 and 2016.

Sardar, who has faced trying times off field, has been a vital cog in the Indian hockey team for years.

His nomination was cleared by the awards committee, led by Justice CK Khattar, despite the charges of sexual harassment by an Indian origin hockey player based in England.

Sardar, who received Padma Shri in 2015, has denied the allegations. “The award has come as a huge motivation for me. I was not expecting it. I had tough times, but those who knew me -- my family and friends -- stood by me. I don’t focus on it. I will be working harder to contribute to the team,” Sardar, 31, said.

A total of 17 athletes had been nominated for Arjuna awards.

It included the likes of hockey striker S V Sunil, golfer SSP Chawrasia, tennis player Saketh Myneni and cricketer Cheteshwar Pujara. Pujara could not attend the ceremony since he is playing county cricket in England.

“I have been playing hockey for 12 years, so it is a great feeling to be awarded Arjuna,” Sunil said.

The awards have been dogged by controversies this year, too. Weightlifter Sanjita Chanu and basketball player A Anitha moved Delhi High Court over their non-selection. Ministry now has to file a reply in Chanu’s case in 14 days.

Mariyappan’s coach Satyanarayana’s name was dropped by the Sports Ministry for Dronacharya award after it surfaced there was criminal case pending against him in Metropolitan Court in Delhi. Kabaddi coach Hira Nand Kataria’s name too was overturned following objections from kabaddi federation and several players.

The complaint against Kataria was that he is little known in kabaddi circles and is reportedly an official of the Rajasthan Wushu Association.

Meanwhile, the Droncharya award for walking coach Ramakrishnan Gandhi, who passed away last year, was received by his wife Dr Sailaxmi Gandhi.

Awardees: Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: Devendra Jhajharia (para- athlete) and Sardar Singh (hockey).

Arjuna: V J Surekha (archery), Khushbir Kaur (athletics), Arokia Rajiv (athletics), Prashanthi Singh (basketball), L Devendro Singh (boxing), Cheteshwar Pujara (cricket), Harmanpreet Kaur (cricket), Bembem Devi (football), SSP Chawrasia (golf), S V Sunil (hockey), Jasvir Singh (kabaddi), P N Prakash (shooting), Anthony Amalraj (table tennis), Saketh Myneni (tennis), Satyawart Kadian (wrestling), Mariyappan Thangavelu (para-athlete) and Varun Bhati (para-athlete).

Dronacharya: Dr R Gandhi (posthumous, athletics), GSSV Prasad (badminton), Braja Bhusan Mohanty (boxing), PA Raphael (hockey), Sanjoy Chakraverthy (shooting), Roshan Lal (Wrestling).

Dhyan Chand: Bhupender Singh (athletics), Syed Shahid Hakim (football), Sumrai Tete (hockey).

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