Sania Mirza conferred with Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award

The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, on Saturday, conferred the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award to tennis ace Sania Mirza on National Sports day in a glittering ceremony at the Rastrapathi Bhavan. Sania became the second tennis player to receive the country’s highest sporting honour after Leander Paes.

Sania, who was clad in a maroon saree and blue blazer, attracted the loudest applause from the esteemed gathering at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. She received a medal, certificate and cash prize of Rs. 7.5 lakh. She had flown in just to receive the award ahead of the US Open starting in New York on Monday.

It was a proud moment for ace pistol shooter Jitu Rai, who was conferred with Arjuna award for his stupendous success in the last two years. The 28-year-old had won gold in the 2014 Commonwealth Games as well as a gold in the Maribor World Cup in the same year, besides becoming the number one shooter in the world.

The Arjuna awardees received statuettes, certificates and award money of Rs.5 lakh each. The ceremony, however, was shrouded in controversy with the ignored athletes and coaches not accepting the recommendations of the ministry-appointed panel.

Just when it seemed there would be no controversy in the lead up to this year’s function, para-athlete H N Girisha approached the Karnataka High Court challenging Sania’s recommendation for Khel Ratna.

Sania Mirza

Sania on Friday had dedicated the award to the people of India. “I would like to dedicate it to the people of India and my family. I feel very happy, privileged and honoured to have received this award. This year has been exceptional for me, looking forward to US Open now,” Sania was quoted as saying.

The Arjuna awardees for 2015: P R Sreejesh (hockey), Dipa Karmakar (gymnastics), Jitu Rai (shooting), Sandeep Kumar (archery), Mandeep Jangra (boxing), Babita (wrestling), Bajrang (wrestling), Rohit Sharma (cricket), K Srikanth (badminton), Swarn Singh Virk (rowing), Satish Sivalingam (weightlifting), Santhoi Devi (wushu), Sharath Gaekwad (para-sailing), M R Poovamma (athletics), Manjeet Chhillar (kabaddi), Abhilasha Mhatre (kabaddi), Anup Kumar Yama (rollerskating).

Droncharya awardees: Naval Singh (athletics-para-sports), Anoop Singh (wrestling), Harbans Singh (athletics-lifetime), Swatantar Raj Singh (boxing- lifetime), Nihar Ameen (swimming-lifetime) Dhyan Chand awardees: Romeo James (hockey), Shiv Prakash Mishra (tennis), TPP Nair (volleyball).

– Spadman