London call attended, athletes bask in afterglow
The afterglow of India's Olympics showing was there for all to see. That also made it a rare occasion when more than one athlete was presented with the nation's highest sports award – the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna.
Shooting silver medallist Vijay Kumar and wrestling bronze winner Yogeshwar Dutt walked up to President Pranab Mukherjee to receive the accolade at the head of a long list of recipients at the national sports awards function on Wednesday.
However, Olympics or not, cricket always finds resonance among the gathering and it was no surprise that Yuvraj Singh underlined his status as the man for all seasons. As the large audience waited for the function to start at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the player was the focus of attention.
Focus of attention
Sports minister Ajay Maken walked up to Yuvraj to have a brief chat before a young officer attached to the commander of the armed forces caught up with the cricketer.
The last signs of the difficult cancer treatment had vanished with his curly hair back in place. There were hordes of youngsters, many of them friends and relatives of other awardees, who repeatedly stopped Yuvraj for autographs.
"It's a very special award," said a beaming Yuvraj. "I have been nominated a few times in the past but I'm happy to get it now," added the Player of the Tournament in last year's World Cup triumph at home.
For once, the player set aside any talk of his successful treatment for a rare germ cell cancer that sidelined him after his last India appearance, in the second Test in Kolkata against the West Indies.
Waiting to return
"Let's talk positively," he said after the function. "I have been training at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) for three months and I'm practicing really well. I am looking forward to playing for India, after a year, on the 8th," he said, referring to the first Twenty20 against New Zealand at Visakhapatnam in a week.
Vijay Kumar is a contented man these days. The success in London has seen him being promoted to Subedar Major and the acknowledgement from his home state, Himachal Pradesh.
"I am taking a break for a month. I will be back in Mhow and resume serious training soon," he said, surrounded by his family members and army officers.
The happiest of the lot was India's Cuban boxing coach Blas Iglesias Fernandez, the first foreigner to be chosen for the Dronacharya award. The Cuban has been associated with the national boxers for over two decades.