Vinesh, Rani, Rohit among five Khel Ratnas at National Sports Awards 2020

[L-R] India Hockey captain Rani Rampal, wrestler Vinesh Phogat and paddler Manika Batra will be awarded the 2020 Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna

The Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs on 22nd August, announced the list of National Sports Awards winners for 2020. The Sports Ministry recognizes the athletes who have been acclaimed on an international stage while representing the nation. 

The sports ministry made an exception this year by allowing athletes to self-apply for different categories. The ministry then appointed a selection panel to pick the winners for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awards, Dronacharya awards, Arjuna awards and Dhyan Chand awards.

The committee was chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Mukundakam Sharma. The committee included Virender Sehwag, Sardar Singh and paralympian Deepa Malik – a Khel Ratna winner last year.


Khel Ratna Awardees

 The panel’s benevolence in awarding the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna was for all to see! The country’s highest sporting honour will be presented to 5 athletes. You’ve to go back to 2016, when more than 2 awards were conferred in the same year.

But then this is a never seen before year, full of anomalies! With self-application, the numbers who considered themselves worthy of the award swelled up to 40. Sprinter Hima Das, shooter Apurvi Chandela and javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra were unlucky to have been overlooked.  

Indian hockey captain Rani Rampal, wrestler Vinesh Phogat and table tennis ace Manika Batra were rightfully recognized. Rampal, an Asian Games silver medallist led India to victory in the FIH Series Finals in Japan last year. Phogat and Batra both won gold medals at the 2018 Asian Games and Commonwealth Games respectively. 

Rohit Sharma became only the fourth cricketer to be bestowed with the Khel Ratna. The ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year 2019 had topped the run scoring charts at the Cricket World Cup. Paralympic high-jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu, a gold medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympics was also duly honoured.  

Arjuna Awardees

27 of the 29 nominated athletes have been conferred with the Arjuna Award. The only ones to miss out were past winners Sakshi Malik and Mirabai Chanu. But their inclusion in the final shortlist was a surprise to many in the first place! Both were previous recipients of the prestigious Khel Ratna award. 

Shooter Manu Bhaker, golfer Aditi Ashok and sprinter Dutee Chand all benefited from the committee’s large-heartedness. Madhurima Patkar, a member of the 2018 Commonwealth Games TT team that won gold was honoured in due time.

Deepti Sharma is another player who shouldn’t have had to wait until now to win the Arjuna Award. Six years on from her debut, the India all-rounder is among the first names on the team sheet.

There was an air of certainty regarding her winning the award. She knows that this award is just the beginning and that she’s capable of even higher honours.

Rohit Sharma [L} became the 4th cricketer after Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli [R] to be conferred with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna.

The continuing impact of coronavirus had forced the ceremony to be held virtually on 29th August. It’s held every year on this day to celebrate National Sports Day – Major Dhyan Chand’s birthday. In a normal year, the President of India would confer the award to the winners at Rashtrapati Bhavan. 

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