Badminton ace Saina Nehwal, whose phenomenal rise was highlighted by three top-flight international titles recently, was today conferred the coveted Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award at a glittering ceremony in New Delhi on Sunday.
Saina's achievements in the past one year made her an automatic choice for the prestigious award, the highest
sporting honour in the country.
The Hyderabadi shuttler though did not collect the award, which consists of a medal, citation and cash prize of Rs 7.5
lakh, personally as she is yet to return from Paris where she lost in the quarter-finals of the World Championships.
An Arjuna awardee last year, Saina rose to number two in world rankings and also completed a hat-trick of international
titles, including back-to-back Super Series victories in Singapore and Indonesia in June.
Former Indian hockey skipper Sandeep Singh and women's cricket captain Jhulan Goswami were among the 15 sportspersons who received the Arjuna Award from President Pratibha Patil at Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Boxer Dinesh Kumar, swimmer Rehan Poncha, world's second youngest Grandmaster Parimarjan Negi and Olympian wrestler Rajiv Tomar also received the Arjuna award for their achievements in the last one year.
Women hockey player Jasjeet Kaur Handa also missed the ceremony as she is now in Argentina for the FIH World Cup.
No male cricketer got the honour, while Deepak Mondal was the lone footballer and Rajeev Tomar was the lone wrestler to get Arjuna award.
Others to get the award were Sanjeev Rajput (shooting), Kapil Dev (volleyball), Rehan Poncha (swimming), Dinesh Kumar (kabaddi), Rajesh Chaudhary (yachting) and Jagseer Singh (para-Olympian).
Sandeep was in a superb form during India's recent hockey tour of Europe, while seasoned pace-woman Jhulan is currently heading the bowling list of International Cricket Council's ODI Women's Rankings.
Dinesh had won the light heavyweight 81kg Commonwealth Championships title earlier this year, while Poncha would be India's bets bet for a swimming medal in this year's Commonwealth Games.
Dronacharya Award, the top recognition for coaches in the country, was conferred on five including L Ibomcha Singh
(boxing), Ajay Kumar Bansal (hockey), AK Kutty (athletics), Captain Chandrup (wrestling) and Subhash B Aggarwal
(billiards and snooker).
The Arjuna and Dronacharya awardees got statuettes, citations and cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each.