Olympic medallists Vijay Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt will be jointly conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award — the country's highest sporting honour — while an unprecedented 25 sportspersons will be given the Arjuna Award this year, as reported by HT on Saturday.
The sports ministry decided to relax the rule which states that only one Khel Ratna and 15 Arjuna Awards are to be given each year. “However, the Scheme provides that this condition can be relaxed in exceptional circumstances viz, winning of an Olympic medal,” the ministry said in a statement announcing the final list of awardees.
A similar exception was made after the Beijing Olympics in 2008, when the Khel Ratna was given to three sportsmen — Vijender Singh, Sushil Kumar and Mary Kom in 2009.
This year, the choices were made by a selection committee which was headed by 2004 Olympics silver-medallist shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and comprising of sportspersons such as Akhil Kumar (boxing), Khajan Singh (swimming), Bhaichung Bhutia (football) and Ravi Shastri (cricket).Pistol shooter Vijay Kumar won a silver in the 25m rapidfire event at the London Olympics, while Yogeshwar bagged a bronze in 60kg free style event.
Cricketer Yuvraj Singh, who is preparing to stage a comeback after recovering from a rare germ cell cancer, is among the 25 sportspersons, who have been picked for the Arjuna Award.
25 Arjuna winners
Among others are shuttler Parupalli Kashyap, who reached the Olympic men's singles quarterfinals, hockey player Sardar Singh, and squash player Dipika Pallikal, who Friday became the first Indian to reach semi-finals of a Gold Series event in Australia.
“The Selection Committee noted that 2012 is the Olympic year and India has won 6 medals in the London Olympics, which is country's best performance in Olympics, the statement added.
The awardees will receive their awards from the President of India at a function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on August 29.