India's ace shuttler Saina Nehwal was on Friday selected for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, the country's sporting honour, for her oustanding achievements on the badminton court.
National sports awards (Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Arjuna and Dhyan Chand) selection committee headed by P T Usha met here today and decided to bestow the Khel Ratna on Saina after considering her brilliant performance in the last one year.
The World number two Indian has been in red-hot form in the last one year, where she reached the semifinals of the All England Super Series in March before winning three successive titles in June.
"I am really happy. It's unbelievable, a dream come true for me to get another within one year. National awards gives you a lot of motivation and it definitely has inspired me to achieve bigger glories for my country," Saina said.
"I have done well in the last two years and the three titles that I won recently have really boosted my confidence. I am now preparing for the World Championship and I hope to win the title," she added.
Saina was awarded the Arjuna Award last year and recently she was chosen as one of the six brand ambassador for the Commonwealth Games which will be held here from October 3-14.
National coach and her mentor Pullela Gopichand also heaped praise on his protege and said it is the result of her hard work that she achieved the award.
"Its really a great news. She deserves the award. She had a fantastic last two years and she has put a lot of hard work and the sort of believe she has on herself, I'm confident she will achieve much more in her career," Gopichand said.
Gopichand said next month's World badminton Championship will be a test for Saina as it would decide if she can reach the numero uno status.
"She is world number two now and the number one status will depend on her feat in the World Championship because, the other two important tournaments likw Commonwealth Games and Asian Games unfortunately doesn't count in ranking," he said.
The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award was given jointly to the trio of Olympic bronze medallist boxer Vijender Singh, wrestler Sushil Kumar and four-time World champion woman pugilist MC Mary Kom last year.
The award, to be given away on August 29 by the President Pratibha Patil, consists of a cash amount of Rs 7.5 lakh, a scroll of honour and medal.