London Olympics medallists, shooter Vijay Kumar and wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, were conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Wednesday by the newly-elected President Pranab Mukherjee.
Mukherjee also presented Arjuna awards to 25 athletes, Dronacharya award to eight coaches from different disciplines as well as Dhyan Chand and Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award.
The number of awardees were increased this year with 2012 being the Olympic and Paralympic year. India won six medals in London Games, its biggest Olympic medal haul ever.
Vijay won a silver in the 25m rapid fire event while Yogeshwar bagged a bronze in the 60kg freestyle event. The two received a cash prize of Rs 7.5 lakh each along with statuettes and citations. “It is a dream come true for me. It brings a lot of responsibility,” Vijay said.
Among the Arjuna awardees was cricketer Yuvraj Singh, who is returning to international cricket after recovering from a rare germ cell cancer and received a roaring round of applause.
“It is a great award and I am very happy to receive it. It is very motivating ahead of the World Twenty20. I hope to once again do good for my country,” Yuvraj said.
Archer Deepika Kumari, shuttler Ashwini Ponnappa, squash player Deepika Pallikal, wrestler Geeta Phogat were also among the Arjuna awardees.
“I hope this award will inspire more girls to take up wrestling,” Phogat said. Eight coaches received the Dronacharya awards as recognition of achievements in coaching. The award carried a statuette, citation and enhanced cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each.
Boxing’s BI Fernandez became the first foreign coach to receive Dronacharya award. Officials from Cuban embassy attended the function.
List of awardees: Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award: Vijay Kumar (shooting) and Yogeshwar Dutt (wrestling).
Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar: Community Sports Identification and Nurturing of Budding Young Talent -- Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), Financial Support for Sports Excellence -- Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB), Establishment and Management of Sports Academies of Excellence -- Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) and Employment of Sportspersons and Sports Welfare Measures -- Air India Sports Promotion.