If para-athletes are unhappy over HN Girisha, winner of the country’s only medal, silver, at the 2012 London Para-Olympics, being ignored for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Krishna Poonia, the country’s first woman to win gold in athletics at the Commonwealth Games, is upset for being overlooked for the country’s highest sporting award.
The committee recommended Olympic shooter Ronjan Sodhi for the award.
It was an exception last year when the ministry awarded the Khel Ratna to shooter Vijay Kumar and wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt for their medals at the London Olympics, despite them not applying for the award.
This year, the ministry ignored high-jumper Girisha’s performance in the F42 category even after he had applied for the award.
“This is injustice towards para-sports. When the ministry can make an exception by conferring the award upon Vijay and Yogeshwar, why has it ignored Girisha’s Olympic medal? Just because he is physically challenged?” said paralympian Amit Saroha, who has been nominated for the Arjuna Award.
The ministry was considering Girisha for the Arjuna Award, but as he did not apply for it, his name was not considered. “How come Vijay and Yogeshwar were considered for the Khel Ratna when they didn’t apply for it? If exceptions were made in their case, rules could have been bent here as well,” said Saroha.
Discus thrower Poonia, sixth at the London Olympics, and fourth at the World Grand Prix this year, feels the committee ignored her performance.
“The last one year’s performance is considered for the Khel Ratna but I don’t know what criteria the committee followed,” said Poonia.
“Athletics is one of the most competitive events and even making it to the final is no mean achievement. Finishing fourth at the World Grand Prix is no mean effort.
It’s as good as a medal in most other sport if you consider the field. You can look at my performance at other international events, including the Commonwealth and Asian Games,” she added.
“Hopefully, I will be meeting the minister tomorrow (Wednesday) on this issue,” said Poonia, who broke a 52-year-old Commonwealth Games gold jinx in athletics at the 2010 CWG.
“The award should go to the best of the lot from the current session and not to a player based on his past laurels,” said Virender Poonia, her husband and coach.