New Delhi: For the first time more than two sportsperson may be awarded the country's highest sporting award, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna.
Beijing Games bronze medalists, boxer Vijender Singh and wrestler Sushil Kumar along with four-time women's world boxing champion M C Marykom have been recommended for the Khel Ratna.
Sports ministry sources said on Monday that all the three sportsperson deserve the award for their outstanding performances as none of them could be overlooked.
Last year after Marykom was overlooked for the Khel Ratna, sports ministry M S Gill assured the Manipuri boxer that she will get her due.
"Marykom has already been assured by the sports ministry and both Vijender and Sushil can't be ignored after their Beijing showing. The selection committee considered all the factors in nominating them, leaving it to the ministry to decide whether all three should be given the Khel Ratna as a special case," the sports official said.
This would not be the first time more than one sportsperson would be receiving the Khel Ratna. Twice in the past two sportspersons were picked for the award. In 1996-97, tennis star Leander Paes and weightlifter Kunjarani Devi were the joint recipients while shooter Anjali Vedpathak and athlete K M Beenamol were given in 2002-03.
The selection committee headed by former table tennis player Indu Puri also nominated badminton sensation Saina Nehwal, the first Indian to win a Super Series event, shooter Ronjan Sodhi and cricketer Gautam Gambhir for the Arjuna Award.
Olympic medalist Sushil's coach Satpal and former All England Badminton champion and Saina's coach Pullela Gopichand are two among the five coaches, who have been nominated for the Dronacharya Award.
List of awardees:
Rajiv Khel Ratna: M.C. Marykom (boxer), Vijender Kumar (boxer) and Sushil Kumar (wrestling)
Arjuna Award: Mangal Singh Champia (archery), Sinimol Paulose (athletics), Saina Nehwal (badminton), L. Saritha Devi (boxing), Tania Sachdeva (chess), Gautam Gambhir (cricket), Ignatius Tirkey (hockey), Surinder Kaur (hockey), Pankaj Shirsat (kabaddi), B. Prabhu (physically challenged), Satish Joshi (rowing), Ranjan Sodhi (shooting), Poulami Ghatak (table tennis), Yogeshwar Dutt (wrestling), G L Yadav (yachting).
Dronacharya Award: Baldev Singh (hockey), Jaidev Bisht (boxing), Satpal (wrestling), Pullela Gopichand (badminton) and Udaikumar (kabaddi).
Nominated for Khel Ratna, Marykom regrets it came so late
It's been three-year wait for the four-time women's world boxing champion M C Marykom to get nominated for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. The Manipuri who was finally nominated for the country's highest sporting award on Monday, however, regrets it has come after so long.
"It's been a long wait for me, I have been applying for the award from the past three years. Despite performing, I wasn't even nominated. I regret that," Marykom, an Arjuna Award winner and a Padmshree, said as a matter of fact.
The petite lady is nonetheless happy to be nominated.
"After winning my fourth world boxing championship, I visited the sports minister last year and he encouraged me a lot. I am quite relieved and happy today though officially I have not been informed about the nomination yet," she told IANS.
When told along with her, Beijing Games bronze medallists, boxer Vijender Singh and wrestler Sushil Kumar also have been nominated and stand a chance to be adjudged the joint winners, Marykom was quick to say, "The things should go as per the rule. If the rule is that only one person can win the award, then it should be so, whether I win or someone else."
The mother of twin boys, Marykom, who is an inspector in Manipur police, said if she wins she will dedicate the award to her husband and kids.
"My husband has been a big support throughout. I took just a year's break after giving birth to my twins. Without them, I wouldn't have reached so far. If I win, I will dedicate the awards to them. And I wish to do even better in the future."