An unprecedented 25 sportspersons will be conferred with the Arjuna awards this year, while the country’s highest sporting honour — the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna — will be jointly presented to Olympic medallists, shooter Vijay Kumar and wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt.
The choices were made by a selection committee headed by 2004 Olympic silver-medallist shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and comprising noted sportspersons such as Akhil Kumar (boxing), Khajan Singh (swimming), Baichung Bhutia (football) and Ravi Shastri (cricket). Pistol shooter Vijay Kumar won a silver in the 25m rapid fire event at the London Olympics, while Yogeshwar bagged a bronze in 60kg free style event.
“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 viz winning of an Olympic medal,” the Sports Ministry said in a statement announcing the final list of awardees.
Cricketer Yuvraj Singh, who is preparing to stage a comeback after recovering from a rare germ cell cancer, is among the 25 sportspersons who have been picked for the Arjuna awards. Hockey mid-fielder 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 are among Arjuna award winners this year.
“Arjuna awards are normally not given to more than 15 people in any calendar year. However, the scheme of Arjuna awards also provides that keeping in view the performance of Indian sportspersons in the Commonwealth, Asian Games and Olympic Games during a particular year, Arjuna awards exceeding 15 in number may be allowed with proper justification and approval of the Minister for Youth Affairs & Sports,” the ministry said.
“The Selection Committee noted that 2012 is the Olympic year and India had won six medals in the London Olympics, which was the country’s best performance in Olympic Games so far, and recommended that the condition of one award in case of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and 15 awards in case of Arjuna Awards may be relaxed and the number of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award may be increased from one to two and Arjuna Awards may be increased from 15 to 25.”
Apart from a medal and a citation, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardees will receive a cash prize of Rs 7.5 lakh each and Arjuna Awardees will receive statuette, citations and cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each. The awardees will receive their awards from the President at a function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on August 29.
The final list: Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award - 2012: Vijay Kumar (Shooting) and Yogeshwar Dutt (Wrestling). Arjuna Awards 2012: 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 Malik (Athletics – Paralympics), Ramkaran Singh (Athletics – Paralympics).