30 August :Mahendra Singh Dhoni became only the second cricketer, a decade after Sachin Tendulkar, to receive the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award as he was conferred the country’s highest sporting honour at a glittering function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi on Friday.
The Indian ODI captain, however, could not attend the function as he was leading the team in the fifth and final match of the one-day series against Sri Lanka, which India has already won.
His father Paan Singh received the award on his behalf.President Pratibha Patil presented Rs 500,000, a scroll of honour and a medal in recognition to his spectacular and most outstanding performance in sports.
Apart from the 27-year-old Dhoni, it was also a red letter day for 11 other sportspersons, who were bestowed Arjuna Awards at a packed Ashok Hall which reverberated with thunderous applause.
Olympian shooter Avneet Kaur Sidhu, veteran hockey forward Prabhjot Singh, and Beijing Olympic quarter-finalist rower Bajranglal Takhar were among those who were honoured with the Arjuna awards at the magnificent ceremony.
World junior champion in women’s chess D Harika, ace golfer Arjun Atwal and powerlifter Ferman Basha could not make it to the award function.Harika’s sister Anusha, Atwal’s father Harminder and Basha’s wife Andorita received the awards on the behalf of the respective sportspersons.
Once again none of the men cricketers featured in list of Arjuna awardees’ since Harbhajan Singh won it in 2003.
The Arjuna Award, country’s oldest sports honour, was started in 1961 and comprises a cheque of Rs 300,000, a statuette of legendary archer Arjuna and a scroll of honour in recognition of outstanding achievements at international competitions.
Dhoni, in his first stint as Indian captain, led the team to Twenty20 World Cup win in its inaugural edition staged in South Africa.Dhoni once again proved his leadership skills by leading India to an unprecedented one-day tri-series win in Australia, giving the world champions a wake up call.
Judoka Tombi Devi said it was a great feeling to win the honour despite lack of enough support system."It feels great to be here. If we judokas get better facilities and coaches we can scale greater heights," she said after receiving the award.
Shooter Avneet Kaur said she was motivated by the honour and would target 2012 London Olympics for further glory."My ultimate goal is 2012 Olympics. Now all my energy would be concentrated on achieving success there," she said.
"My training scores are good but for the final competitions I am planning to take the help of a mental trainer," she revealed.Coaches Sanjeeva Kumar Singh (Archery), Jagdish Singh (Boxing), G E Sridharan (Volleyball), Jagminder Singh (Wrestling) received the Dronacharya awards.
Coach Jagdish said he had put in a lot of effort in shaping up the Bhiwani boxers and feels proud of their achievement in the Olympic Games."We have a talented lot in boxing and it is a great proud to be here today," he said. DDINEWS