Olympic bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal said she was disappointed after the sports ministry decided to reject her application for the prestigious Padma Bhushan award this year, citing norms.
Badminton Association of India (BAI) had recommended Saina's name for the award to the Sports Ministry in August last year but the ministry picked two-time Olympic medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar as it felt he was a more deserving candidate.
"I heard that Sushil Kumar's name was sent for Padma award as a special case, while my name was not sent to mnistry of home affairs by sports ministry. The ministry guidelines says that there needs to be a gap of five years between two Padma awards. So if they can send his name, why they didn't recommend my name as I have completed the five years gap. I felt bad about it," Saina, who was awarded the Padma Shri in 2010, told PTI.
The 24-year-old claimed that her application was rejected last year also on similar grounds but this year, the ministry decided to recommend Sushil's name even though he has not completed the five-year norm after being bestowed with the Padma Shri in 2011.
"Last year when I had sent my file for the Padma Bhushan award, the ministry said 'No Saina you can't apply this year because you have to complete five years for this.' So I again applied this year for the award. So why my name was not recommended this year?," she asked.
Saina, who is the only Indian badminton player to win a medal at the Olympics, was bestowed with the Khel Ratna and Padma Shri honours in 2010. She also received the Arjuna Award in 2009.
"After 2010, I had won a Commonwealth Games gold medal, first Olympic medal for badminton, achieved a career-high ranking of two and won so many super series titles, so I thought I was deserving as well. But if the name has not been sent then it feels bad," Saina said.
"I spoke to the higher officials yesterday (Friday). They said Sushil's name has already gone. I can only request them to look into it. If we both can win that would be really good. If his name has been sent as a special case then why my name has not been sent because even if they go by the rules, my name should be sent," she added.
Saina said she will be more than happy if both she and Sushil get the award.
"Sushil is a great player but then medal is a medal. We both won medals at the Olympics. They could have given the award to him after 2012 Olympics as a special case if they had to. Why do it now? I am disappointed," she said.
Saina is the first Indian to win a Premier, Super Series and Grand Prix Gold titles.