New Delh: With a Khel Ratna missing for the first time in two decades, President Pranab Mukherjee gave away the National Sports Awards during a ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here Friday.
For the first time since 1994, the awards selection committee headed by cricket legend Kapil Dev and including the likes of Anju Bobby George and Kunjarani Devi, two media persons and three government representatives, including Sports Authority of India Director General Jiji Thomson failed to decide on a name for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the country's highest sporting honour.
Vice President M. Hamid Ansari and Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal were also present at the ceremony.
Sportspersons Tintu Luka (athletics), Anirban Lahiri (golf), H.N. Girisha (paralympics), V. Diju (badminton), Geetu Ann Jose (basketball), Jai Bhagwan (boxing), Renubala Chanu (weightlifting), Heena Sidhu (shooting), Sunil Rana (wrestling) and Akhilesh Varma (archery) received the Arjuna Award.
Ravichandran Ashwin was not present at the function. This is not the first time that a cricketer has been missing. The spinner is at present in England touring with the Indian squad.
The Arjuna, Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand awardees received statuettes, citations and cash prize of Rs.5 lakh each while recipients of Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar were presented trophies.
Arjuna Awards: Akhilesh Varma (Archery), Tintu Luka (Athletics), H.N. Girisha (Paralympics), V. Diju (Badminton), Geetu Ann Jose (Basketball), Jai Bhagwan (Boxing), Ravichandran Ashwin (Cricket), Anirban Lahiri (Golf), Mamta Pujari (Kabaddi), Saji Thomas (Rowing), Heena Sidhu (Shooting), Anaka Alankamany (Squash), Tom Joseph (Volleyball), Renubala Chanu (Weightlifting) and Sunil Rana (Wrestling).
Dronacharya Awards: Mahabir Prasad (Wrestling), N. Lingappa (Athletics - Lifetime), G. Manoharan (Boxing - Lifetime), Gurcharan Singh Gogi (Judo - Lifetime), Jose Jacob (Rowing - Lifetime).
Dhyan Chand Awards: Gurmail Singh (Hockey), K.P. Thakkar (Swimming - Diving), Zeeshan Ali (Tennis).
Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar: 1. Employment of sports persons and sports welfare measures - Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC), 2. Community sports - identification and nurturing of budding /young talent - Jindal Steel Works (JSW), 3. Establishment and management of sports academies of excellence - Guru Hanuman Akhara, Delhi, 4. Other forms of sports activities not covered in the four categories mentioned in the schemes - Child Link Foundation of India (Magic Bus).