Olympic bronze-winning Indian men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh was on Tuesday, November 2, added to the list of Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna awardees, taking the total number of this year's winners to an unparalleled 12, with the ceremony scheduled for November 13 at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Manpreet was originally recommended for the Arjuna award but he joined veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh as the second hockey player in the list of awardees for the highest sporting honour.
The other prominent Khel Ratna winners this year include Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra and Olympic silver-medallist wrestler Ravi Dahiya. Among 35 Arjuna awardees are most of India's Paralympic medal winners and cricketers Shikhar Dhawan and Mithali Raj.
"The awardees will receive their awards from the President of India at a specially organised function at the Darbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan on 13th November, 2021 (Saturday) at 1630 hrs," the sports ministry announced. It was held online last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Khel Ratna award is given for the spectacular and most outstanding performances by a sportsperson over a period of the previous four years. Given the unprecedented Olympic and Paralympic performance, the number of awardees was expected to be high this year. India won seven medals in the Olympics and notched up 19 medals, including five gold, eight silver and six bronze medals at the Paralympics in the country's best ever show at the two sporting extravaganzas.
A total of 10 coaches have been picked for the Dronacharya awards. In the life-time achievement category, TP Ouseph (Athletics), Sarkar Talwar (Cricket), Sarpal Singh (Hockey), Ashan Kumar (Kabaddi) and Tapan Kumar Panigrahi (Swimming) were picked for the honour. The winners in the regular Dronacharya category are: Radhakrishnan Nair P (Athletics), Sandhya Gurung (Boxing), Pritam Siwach (Hockey), Jai Prakash Nautiyal (Para Shooting) and Subramanian Raman (Table Tennis).
Sandhya Gurung, besides being an assistant coach in the national camp, is also the personal coach of Olympic bronze-medallist Lovlina Borgohain, who will receive the Khel Ratna just a year after being bestowed the Arjuna award.
Sajjan Singh (Wrestling) was selected for Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime achievement along with former world and Asian champion boxer Lekha KC, Abhijeet Kunte (Chess), Davinder Singh Garcha (Hockey) and Vikas Kumar (Kabaddi).
This year's awards selection committee was headed by Justice (Retd.) Mukundakam Sharma (former Judge of Supreme Court) and included three-time Paralympic medal-winning javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia, former cricketer Venkatesh Prasad, and ex-world champion boxer L Sarita Devi among others.