Narang conferred Khel Ratna, Zaheer unable to attend function

first_imgThe joy of being honoured by the President of India was writ large on the sportspersons’ gleaming faces at the Rashtrapati Bhawan here on Monday.Gone were the strained faces, pictures of concentration when representing the country, and instead, there they were in the sprawling Ashoka Hall, looking dapper in their ceremonial attire.On the occasion of hockey legend Dhyan Chand’s birthday – observed as National Sports Day – President Pratibha Patil presented the Sports and Adventure Awards 2011, with shooter Gagan Narang headlining the ceremony on being conferred with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award. The award carries a medallion, a citation and a cash prize of ` 7.5 lakh.President Pratibha Patil presents the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award to Gagan Narang in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: Naveen Jora / MTThe rifle ace, who was also honoured with the Padma Shri – the fourth highest civilian award in the country – this year, said it was a great moment for him. “I’m extremely happy that my efforts have been recognised and receiving the award from the President was a great moment for me,” Narang told MAIL TODAY.Asked what, apart from an Olympic gold, was now missing from his awards cabinet, Narang, the world record holder in 10m air rifle, said: “I haven’t yet got the world record in ( 50m rifle) 3 positions and (50m rifle) prone, so that’s one target. Of course, my focus is currently on the Olympics, so all that can wait.”The list of Arjuna awardees features 19 athletes, out of which 15 were on hand to collect their awards. According to a sports ministry diktat, the practice of handing the award to a family member has been discontinued and the athletes have to inform the ministry and seek a future date to collect the award.advertisementThe most prominent absentee was cricketer Zaheer Khan who, according to sources, sent a letter to the ministry explaining that he was injured and couldn’t be present. Discus thrower Vikas Gowda is currently competing in the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, while tennis ace Somdev Devvarman is in New York for the US Open.Gymnast Ashish Kumar is at a training camp in London ahead of the World Cup next month.Among those who were present, archer Rahul Banerjee led the list of awardees. Rahul, whose sister Dola won the award six years ago, said it was a proud moment for his family. “Now we have two Arjuna Awards in effectively the same room, and our parents have every reason to be proud,” he said.Middle- distance runner Preeja Sreedharan, who couldn’t go to Daegu because of illness, said the award was a boost for her. ” I can’t tell you how happy I am today, and it is a real boost for me to try and qualify for the Olympics. My Asian Games time was just five seconds shy of the ‘A’ qualification standard of 31 minutes 45 seconds, and I want to reach that at the national meet in Kolkata next month,” she told MAIL TODAY .Badminton ace Jwala Gutta was philosophical about getting the award after more than 10 years of success at the international level.”My father always taught me that you get what you deserve eventually, which is why I have never been one to sulk or crib. I’ve got the award, I am really happy, and this just inspires me to keep doing my job, which is to play,” she said.Footballer Sunil Chhetri said that after Bhaichung Bhutia’s recent retirement, this award was a reminder of the added responsibility on his shoulders. “I am pushing myself to fill the void left by Bhaichung’s retirement. I won’t call it pressure, rather it is added responsibility. It is time, I believe, to stop criticising each other – be it the federation, coaches, clubs, players or the media – and believe that Indian football can improve,” Chhetri said.Weightlifter Katulu Ravi Kumar, who was dragged into a controversy by female colleague Renu Bala Chanu for being chosen ahead of her, said he had mixed emotions on the day. “Personally, I was expecting Renu to be chosen because of her seniority and performance. What saddens me is that I was dragged into the controversy. But I want to use the award to inspire me at the World Championships next month, where I hope to get an Olympic berth for India,” he told MAIL TODAY .ROLL OF HONOURRAJIV GANDHI KHEL RATNAGagan Narang (shooting)DRONACHARYA AWARDSKuntal Roy (athletics), IV Rao (boxing), DK Rathore (gymnastics), Rajinder Singh (hockey), Ramphal (wrestling)advertisementDHYAN CHAND AWARDSShabbir Ali (football), Sushil Kohli (swimming), Raj Kumar (wrestling)ARJUNA AWARDSRahul Banerjee (archery), Preeja Sreedharan (athletics), Vikas Gowda (athletics), Jwala Gutta (badminton), M Suranjoy Singh (boxing), Zaheer Khan (cricket), Sunil Chhetri (football), Ashish Kumar (gymnastics), Rajpal Singh (hockey), Rakesh Kumar (kabaddi, men), Tejeswini Bai V (kabaddi, women), Tejaswini Sawant (shooting), Virdhawal Khade (swimming), Somdev Devvarman (tennis), Sanjay Kumar (volleyball), Ravinder Singh (wrestling), K Ravi Kumar (weightlifting), W Sandhyarani Devi (wushu), Prasanta Karmakar (para-swimming)TENZING NORGAY NATIONAL ADVENTURE AWARDSReena Kaushal Dharmshaktu (land adventure), Mamta Sodha (land adventure), Dilip Donde (water adventure), Late Balwant Singh Sandhu (lifetime achievement)last_img

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