PPE kit over Sari: Rani Rampal receives Khel Ratna as India honours the best in sports
National Sports Awards: An unprecedented five Khel Ratna awards have been announced this year – cricketer Rohit Sharma, women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal, world championship bronze medallist Vinesh Phogat, Commonwealth Games champion Manika Batra and para athlete Mariyappan Thangavelu. Rampal and Thangavelu attended the ceremony in Bengaluru. Manika Batra joined from Pune.Updated: Aug 29, 2020, 13:28 IST
Wearing a PPE kit over her saree, women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal left the national camp in Bengaluru in the morning to the designated Sports Authority of India centre to collect her Khel Ratna. That was the scene across nine different centres in various cities, where 60 of the 74 award winners gathered to receive their awards virtually through President Ram Nath Kovind.
The National Sports and Adventure Awards has been organized virtually this year because of the pandemic and award winners had to take COVID test before the ceremony . An unprecedented five Khel Ratna awards have been announced this year – cricketer Rohit Sharma, women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal, world championship bronze medallist Vinesh Phogat, Commonwealth Games champion Manika Batra and para athlete Mariyappan Thangavelu. Rampal and Thangavelu attended the ceremony in Bengaluru. Manika Batra joined from Pune. Vinesh tested positive for COVID on Friday and will have to skip the awards ceremony. Rohit Sharma will also miss out as he is in the United Arab Emirates for Indian Premier League. They will be handed the awards later. Besides five Khel Ratna, 27 Arjuna awardees are in the honour list this year.
“I am very excited and happy to be awarded the Khel Ratna. I thank the sports minister Kiren Rijiju and Hockey India for recommending my name. It is a huge honour for a women hockey player,” said Rampal, who became the first women hockey player to receive the nation’s highest sporting honour -- Khel Ratna.
“I know because of COVID we have to take all safety precautions. For any athlete it is a very good feeling to go to the President’s house and receive the award. It is a different experience and feeling this time but you cannot do anything – because of this pandemic all these steps are necessary,” she said.
Altogether 14 of the 74 award winners will not be able to attend the function for different reasons. Four of them will be missing the award because of testing positive for COVID. It includes Vinesh and her coach OP Dahiya – Dronacharya awardee—who were scheduled to take part in the awards ceremony from Sonepat centre, and shuttler Satwiksairak Rankireddy, who has been awarded Arjuna award. The most tragic incident was the death of former India athletic coach Purushotham Rai, who passed away with a heart attack in Bengaluru on Friday. Rai, 79, was awarded the Dronacharya Award and he was also part of the dress rehearsal on Friday. He died of a massive heart attack hours before the ceremony.
On Saturday, sports minister Kiren Rijiju also announced enhancement of prize money in four of the seven categories of the National Sports and Adventure Awards.
The prize money for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award has been increased to Rs 25 lakh from the previous amount of Rs 7.5 lakh, Arjuna Award has been enhanced to Rs 15 lakh from Rs 5 lakh, the Dhronacharya (Lifetime) awardees, who were earlier given Rs 5 lakh will now be given Rs 15 lakh as cash prize, while Dhronacharya (Regular) will be given Rs 10 lakh instead of Rs 5 lakh per awardee. Dhyanchand Awardees will be given Rs 10 lakh instead of Rs 5 lakh.
“The prize money for the Sports Awards was last reviewed in 2008. These amounts should be reviewed once every 10 years at least. If professionals in every field have seen an enhancement in their earnings, why not our sportspersons,” said Rijiju, who paid tribute hockey legend Major Dhyan on Chand, on his birth anniversary which is celebrated as The National Sports Day.