Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who recently became only the second Indian to win an individual Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Games, and silver medal-winning wrestler Ravi Dahiya were among the athletes to be recommended for the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Awards on Wednesday, October 27. They were among an unprecedented 11 athletes who were selected for the country’s highest sporting honour.
Boxer Lovlina Borgohain, who won a bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, seasoned hockey goalkeeper PR Sreejesh and woman cricket Test skipper Mithali Raj were also recommended for the Major Dhyanchand Khel Ratna by the selection committee. Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri also became the country's first footballer to be selected for the honour.
Last year, five athletes were picked for the award, while four were selected after the 2016 Rio Games. The announcement of the national sports awards this year was delayed in order to consider the performance of the para-athletes in the Tokyo Paralympics, which lasted from August 24 to September 5.
Shooter Avani Lekhara, who won India’s first gold medal at the Paralympics, and shooter Manish Narwal, javelin thrower Sumit Antil and shuttlers Pramod Bhagat and Krishna Nagar, who all have won a gold each in the Tokyo Paralympics, completed the list of those recommended for the Khel Ratna. The committee also picked 35 athletes for the Arjuna award, eight more than last year's number of awardees. Cricketer Shikhar Dhawan, para TT player Bhavina Patel, para shuttler Suhas Yathiraj and high jumper Nishad Kumar are among those selected for the Arjuna award.
Members of the men's hockey team, that won a historic bronze in the Olympics by bagging the medal for India after 41 years, will also receive the Arjuna award.
The Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award was recently renamed from the earlier Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, after The exceptional performance of the men's and women's hockey teams in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics has captured the imagination of our entire nation, Prime Minister Modi had said.