New Delhi: Olympic medallists Vijay Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt were on Wednesday jointly conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, country's highest sporting honour, while an unprecedented 25 sportspersons were honoured with the Arjuna awards in a glittering ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
A loud applause greeted the two Olympic heroes as they received their Khel Ratna Awards from President Pranab Mukherjee in the presence of a host of Ministers, dignitaries and sports celebrities.
Cricketer Yuvraj Singh, who is preparing to stage a comeback after recovering from a rare germ cell cancer, also received a thunderous applause as he received the Arjuna award with hordes of cameramen capturing his moment of glory.
Pistol shooter Vijay had won a silver in the 25m rapid fire event at the London Olympics, while Yogeshwar bagged a bronze in 60kg free style event. Both the medallists collected the trophy that consists of a medal, citation and cash prize of Rs 7.5 lakh each.
The choices were made by a selection committee headed by 2004 Olympics silver-medallist shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and comprised noted sportspersons such as Akhil Kumar (boxing), Khajan Singh (swimming) and Bhaichung Bhutia (football) among others besides a few bureaucrats.
Normally only one award of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna is given every year to an individual sportsperson. However, the scheme provides that this condition can be relaxed in exceptional circumstances like winning of an Olympic medal.
Hockey midfielder Sardar Singh, wrestler Geeta Phogat, and Narsingh Yadav, shooters Annu Raj Singh and Omkar Singh, shuttlers P Kashyap and Ashwini Ponappa, archers Deepika Kumari and Bombayla Devi were among Arjuna Award winners this year.
For the Arjuna Awards, normally not more than 15 awards are given in any calendar year but an exception has been made this time because it is an Olympics year.
India won six medals including two silver and four bronze medals in London, which is the country's best performance in Olympic Games.
Apart from Vijay and Yogeshwar, wrestler Sushil Kumar won a silver in the men's 66kg freestyle event, while MC Mary Kom settled for a bronze in boxing in women's 51kg category at the London Games.
Ace shuttler Saina Nehwal and shooter Gagan Narang also made the country proud with their bronze medal-winning feat, doubling India's medals tally from the Beijing edition where it had won three medals.
Dronacharya Award, the top recognition for coaches in the country, was conferred on eight including Virender Poonia (athletics), Sunil Dabas (kabaddi), Yashvir Singh (wrestling), Harendra Singh (hockey), Satyapal Singh (para sports (athletics), JS Bhatia (athletics, for Life Time achievement), Bhawani Mukherjee (table tennis, for Life Time achievement) and BI Fernandez (boxing, foreign coach).
Fernandez became the first foreign coach to receive Dronacharya Award after the selection committee, headed by Olympian Aslam Sher Khan, took into account his outstanding contribution in the performance of the Indian boxers at the international sporting events including Olympics. The Arjuna and Dronacharya awardees got statuettes, citations and cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each.
Dhyan Chand Award, given for the life-time contribution to sports development, was conferred on Jagraj Singh Mann (athletics), Gundeep Kumar (hockey), Vinod Kumar (Wrestling) and Sukhbir Singh Tokas (para-sports). The award carries a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh, a statuette and a citation. More PTI SHN MRM
List of awardees: Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award: Vijay Kumar (shooting) and Yogeshwar Dutt (wrestling).
Arjuna Awards: Deepika Kumari (archery), Laishram Bombayla Devi (archery), Sudha Singh (athletics), Kavita Ramdas Raut (athletics), Ashwani Ponnappa (badminton), Parupalli Kashyap (badminton), Aditya S Mehta (billiards and Snooker), Vikas Krishan (boxing), Yuvraj Singh (cricket), Sardar Singh (hockey), Yashpal Solanki (judo), Anup Kumar (kabaddi), Samir Suhag (polo), Annu Raj Singh (shooting), Omkar Singh (shooting), Joydeep Karmakar (shooting), Deepika Pallikal (squash), Sandeep Sejwal (swimming), Ng. Sonia Chanu (weightlifting), Narsingh Yadav (wrestling), Rajinder Kumar (wrestling), Geeta Phogat (wrestling), M. Bimoljit Singh (wushu), Deepa Mallick (athletics, Paralympics), Ramkaran Singh (athletics, Paralympics).
Dronacharya Awards: Virender Poonia (athletics), Sunil Dabas (kabaddi), Yashvir Singh (wrestling), Harendra Singh (hockey), Satyapal Singh (para-sports, athletics), J S Bhatia (athletics, for Life Time achievement), Bhawani Mukherjee (table tennis, for Life Time achievement) and B I Fernandez (boxing).
Dhyan Chand Awards: Jagraj Singh Mann (athletics), Gundeep Kumar (hockey), Vinod Kumar (wrestling) and Sukhbir Singh Tokas (para-sports).