Sharath Kamal conferred Khel Ratna, Arjuna Awards to 25

Sharath Kamal Khel Ratna

NEW DELHI: Table tennis legend Achanta Sharath Kamal was on Wednesday bestowed with the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna, the country’s highest sporting honour, by President Droupadi Murmu at the National Sports Awards ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here on Wednesday.

While Sharath is the lone Khel Ratna award recipient, 25 sportspersons, including shuttlers Lakshya Sen, HS Prannoy, woman boxer Nikhat Zareen, track and field athletes Eldhose Paul and Avinash Sable, were conferred with the Arjuna Award, PTI reports.

The event is traditionally held every year to commemorate the birth anniversary of hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand on August 29. But last year also, the event was held on another date.

The Khel Ratna is given for outstanding performances by a sportsperson over a period of four years. It carries a cash prize of Rs 25 lakh, a medal and a scroll of honour. The Arjuna award carries a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh, a bronze statue and a scroll of honour. 

The 40-year-old Sharath had returned from the Birmingham Commonwealth Games as the most-decorated Indian athlete with four medals. He is the second table tennis player after Manika Batra to get the Khel Ratna.

While Sharath took the spotlight, the star attractions among Arjuna awardees were shuttler Sen, world champion boxer Zareen, boxer Amit Panghal and triple jumper Eldhose Paul, all Gold medallists at the Birmingham Games.

The Khel Ratna was the first award to given by the President, followed by the Dronacharya award in the lifetime category, won by Rohit Sharma’s coach Dinesh Jawahar Lad, football coach Bimal Prafulla Ghosh and wrestling mentor Raj Singh.

The Dronacharya Award is the regular category were handed to Jiwanjot Singh Teja (archery), Mohammad Ali Qamar (boxing), Suma Siddharth Shirur (para shooting) and Sujeet Maan (wrestling).

Discus thrower Seema Punia was the first to receive the Arjuna award from the President, followed by Paul, Sable, Sen, Prannoy and Panghal, among others.

Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime achievement was won by Ashwini Akkunji C (athletics), Dharamvir Singh (hockey), B C Suresh (kabaddi) and Nir Bahadur Gurung (para athletics).

Sreeja, who partnered Sharath to win the mixed doubles gold in Birmingham, described the moment as unforgettable.

“It is an honour for me to be bestowed with the Arjuna award. Recognition of this kind is very motivating for a young athlete like me, and I want to thank my parents, Somnath Sir, and all my coaches and trainers,” she told PTI.