India’s Olympic heroes were feted with the Khel Ratna award on Monday. Rio 2016 medallists, PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik, along with gymnast, Dipa Karmakar, and shooter, Jitu Rai all received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award from President Pranab Mukherjee.
This was the first time in the history of National Sports Awards that four athletes were chosen for the honour. In 2009, boxers Vijender Singh and MC Mary Kom and wrestler Sushil Kumar were given the award together.
At Rio 2016, Sindhu became the first Indian woman athlete to win an Olympic silver. Earlier, Sakshi Malik had opened India’s account at the Olympics by winning a bronze in women’s wrestling. Dipa had already created history by becoming the first Indian to qualify for gymnastics at the summer showpiece. She missed out on a medal by a whisker.
Rai had a disappointing campaign in Brazil. But, he has won half a dozen medals in the past two years, including gold medals in the 50m pistol event during the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games the same year.
The Dronacharya Award was handed to six coaches including Dipa’s mentor Bisweshwar Nandi. Other recipients include Indian cricket Test skipper Virat Kohli’s coach Raj Kumar Sharma.
Also Read: The maverick coach- Bishweshwar Nandi
Also, fifteen sportspersons were honoured with the Arjuna Award and three with the Dhyan Chand Award.
Long distance runner Lalita Babar, who finished a creditable 10th in the 3000m steeplechase in the Rio Games, boxer Shiva Thapa, only the third Indian to win a World Championship medal last year were among the Arjuna awardees. Hockey players, VR Raghunath and Rani Rampal, were also honoured with the Arjuna award.
Cricketer Ajinkya Rahane, also selected for the Arjuna Award, missed out on the ceremony as he is in the United States with the Indian team for a Twenty20 series against the West Indies.
Teen Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, the first Indian athlete to become a world champion at any level with a gold medal at the U—20 World Championship, was also among the Arjuna winners this year.
Goalkeeper Subrata Paul was the lone footballer in the list of Arjuna awardees, which also included shooter Apurvi Chandela and wrestler Vinesh Phogat.
A Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee will receive a cash prize of Rs.7.5 lakh, apart from a medal and a citation. The Arjuna, Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand awardees will receive statuettes, certificates and cash prize of Rs.5 lakh each, according to a press release from the Sports Ministry.