New Delhi, Aug 29 (IANS) Rio Olympics medallists — shuttler P.V. Sindhu and wrestler Sakshi Malik — and gymnast Dipa Karmakar along with shooter Jitu Rai were conferred the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awards — the country’s highest sporting honour– here on Monday.
President Pranab Mukherjee presented the awards amid thunderous applause at the Darbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan on the occasion of National Sports Day.
This was the first time in the history of the National Sports Awards that four athletes were chosen for the Khel Ratna. In 2009, boxers Vijender Singh and M.C. Mary Kom and wrestler Sushil Kumar were given the award together.
Sindhu scripted history by winning the silver in women’s singles badminton in the recently concluded Rio Olympics, while Sakshi took bronze in the women’s 58kg freestyle category at the Games.
Despite Jitu failing to impress at the Rio Games, the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist had won numerous tournaments including a gold at the Asian Games in Incheon.
All the Khel Ratna awardees received a medal, certificate and cash prize of Rs. 7.5 lakh each.
President Mukherjee also gave away the Dronacharya awards to Dipa’s mentor Bisweshwar Nandi, along with Indian cricket Test skipper Virat Kohli’s coach Raj Kumar Sharma, athletics coach Nagapuri Ramesh, boxing coach Sagar Mal Dhayal, Pradeep Kumar (Swimming, lifetime) and Mahabir Singh (wrestling, lifetime).
They were given certificates and a cheque of Rs.5 lakh each.
Apart from this, 15 sportspersons were given the Arjuna Awards. Among them were Olympian runner Lalita Babar, boxer Shiva Thapa, shooter Apurvi Chandela, hockey players V.R. Raghunath and Rani Rampal.
Wrestler Vinesh Phogat, who was stretchered out after dislocating her right knee half-way into the first period of her 48kg quarterfinal fight was also awarded the Arjuna.
Cricketer Ajinkya Rahane missed out on the ceremony as he is still in the US after the conclusion of the T20 International series against the West Indies.
Goalkeeper Subrata Paul was the lone footballer in the list of Arjuna awardees.
Veteran athlete Satti Geetha, hockey player Sylvanus Dung Dung and rower Rajendra Pralhad Shelke were conferred the Dhyanchand Award.