NEW DELHI: Indian table tennis’ warhorse Achanta Sharath Kamal was on Friday recommended for the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award by the selection committee, headed by retired Supreme Court judge, Justice AM Khanwilkar.
Sharath, 40, was rewarded for his superlative performance at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games (CWG), where he won four medals – three gold and one silver. The two-time Asian Games medallist was the only athlete recommended among the 42 Khel Ratna aspirants, who had applied for the country’s highest sporting honour this year.
Some sportspersons who missed out on the Khel Ratna included men’s hockey players Harmanpreet Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh, women’s hockey team captain and goalkeeper Savita Punia and forward Vandana Katariya, men’s singles badminton player Kidambi Srikanth, fencer Bhavani Devi, men’s freestyle wrestler Deepak Punia and 50m rifle 3P specialist Anjum Moudgil.
For the Arjuna award, the 12-member committee recommended a total of 25 names, including Birmingham CWG men’s singles badminton champion Lakshya Sen, women’s World boxing champion Nikhat Zareen, Asian Games gold medallist pugilist Amit Panghal, chess prodigy Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, women wrestlers Anshu Malik and Sarita Mor and Nayanmoni Saikia, member of the Indian women’s team which bagged a historic gold in lawn bowls at the Birmingham CWG, among others.
The committee rewarded Lakshya for his consistency since winning the men’s singles bronze at the World Championships in Huelva last year. He finished a deserving runner-up at the prestigious All England Open before losing to Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen and led the men’s badminton team to its first-ever gold medal-finish at the Thomas Cup. He capped off his sensational season with a gold in the men’s singles and a silver in the mixed team event on his debut CWG in Birmingham.
Lakshya’s mentor and former India coach U Vimal Kumar was present as part of the selection committee and it wasn’t immediately known whether he recused himself from the proceedings when his ward’s name came up for discussion. The 21-year-old trains at the Bengaluru-based Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, which Vimal heads as its director. Former badminton player and 2006 Melbourne mixed team CWG bronze medallist, Trupti Murgunde, was also part of the committee as the government-appointed Mission Olympic Cell (MOC) member.
Nikhat, too, followed up her gold-winning performance at the Istanbul Worlds, with yet another champion show at the Birmingham CWG where she clinched the yellow metal in the women’s light flyweight category. India’s track stars in Birmingham, Eldhose Paul and Avinash Sable, were also shortlisted for Arjuna.
Last year, an unprecedented 12 athletes, including Olympic champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, and 35 sportspersons were honoured with the Khel Ratna and Arjuna award, respectively.
Khel Ratna (1): Achanta Sharath Kamal
Arjuna award (25): Seema Punia, Eldhose Paul, Avinash Sable (athletics), Lakshya Sen, HS Prannoy (badminton), Amit Panghal, Nikhat Zareen (boxing), R Praggnanandhaa, Bhakti Kulkarni (chess), Deep Grace Ekka (hockey), Shushila Devi (judo), Sakshi Kumari (kabaddi), Nayanmoni Saikia (lawn bowls), Sagar Kailash Ovhalkar (mallakhamb), Elavenil Valarivan, Omprakash Mitharval (shooting), Sreeja Akula (TT), Vikas Thakur (weightlifting), Anshu Malik and Sarita Mor (wrestling), Parveen (wushu), Manashi Joshi, Tarun Dhillon (para badminton), Swapnil Patil (para swimming) and Jerlin Anika J (deaf badminton)

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