Pistol shooter Jitu Rai and gymnast Dipa Karmakar have been recommended for this year’s Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award. Their names were recommended by the 12-member committee headed by Justice (retd) SK Aggarwal which met in the Capital on Wednesday.
The committee has also left a window for prospective medal winners in the Rio Olympics to be included in the Khel Ratna scheme.
The name of Karmakar was entered by the sports ministry on the back of her wonderful performance at the Rio Games, where she finished a creditable fourth in the vault final after becoming the first Indian to qualify for the medal stage.
Rai, who could only make the final in the 10m air pistol in Rio, was nominated for the highest sporting award as his nomination had the highest weightage. Rai has won many major medals in the last three years, including the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games gold in the 50m pistol event.
Badminton player PV Sindhu, who had also applied for Khel Ratna, did not get the nomination as the committee members felt she may win a medal and get automatic nomination. Interestingly, India Test skipper Virat Kohli failed to get the nod as the members felt his nomination cannot be justified as this is the Olympic year.
In all there were 10 names in the fray for Khel Ratna --- Tintu Luka, Anirban Lahiri, Vikas Gowda, Mithali Raj, Deepika Pallikal and Gopi Naidu had also applied. Only four names survived the initial screening – Virat, Sindhu, Rai and Dipa.
Bopanna, Devvarman ignored
The committee also nominated 15 names, including two from the Paralympic sports, for the Arjuna award. Prominent among them are shooters Apurvi Chandela and Gurpreet Singh, wrestlers Amit Kumar and Vinesh Phogat and cricketer Ajinkya Rahane. Hockey had two nominations in dragflicker VR Raghunath and the women’s team mainstay, Rani Rampal.
Tennis players were the big losers as Rohan Bopanna, Yuki Bhambri and Somdev Devvarman failed to get the nod. The badminton doubles pair of B Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri too was ignored as they have only just broken through at the international level.
Recommendations at a glance:
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: Jitu Rai and Dipa Karmakar
Arjuna Award: Rajat Chauhan (archery-compound), VR Raghunath, Rani Rampal (both hockey), Lalita Babar (athletics), Sourav Kothari (cue sports), Shiva Thapa (boxing), Ajinkya Rahane (cricket), Sandeep Singh Maan (para), Apurvi Chandela, Gurpreet Singh (both shooting), Saumyajit Ghosh (TT), Amit Kumar, Vinesh Phogat (both wrestling), Subrata Pal (football) and Virendra (deaf sports).