No Khel Ratna this year, 15 named for Arjuna Awards

No Khel Ratna this year, 15 named for Arjuna Awards

No deserving candidate, says panel; Ashwin, Tintu and Girisha among 15 for Arjuna honour

No Khel Ratna this year, 15 named for Arjuna Awards

In a rare development, no Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award will be conferred for the year 2013-14 as the panel headed by former India captain Kapil Dev could find no deserving candidate for the honour.

Seven sportspersons were in contention for the award including tennis player Somdev Devvarman, para athlete H N Girisha, discus thrower Krishna Poonia, discus thrower Vikas Gowda, shuttler P V Sindhu, golfer Jeev Milkha Singh and para athlete Vikas Devendra.

However, the 12-member selection panel, after much deliberation, decided to pick no one.

It is only the second time that no athlete would be conferred the Khel Ratna Award. The last time it happened was in 1993-94.

It is learnt that the longest discussion took place over Jeev but his name was dropped after most panel members felt he had no noteworthy performance to back his case barring the Scottish Open in 2012. Jeev was awarded the Arjuna in 1999.

As for Somdev, who won the gold medal in 2010 Commonwealth Games and gold medals in both singles and men’s doubles in the 2010 Asian Games, members felt he had already got the Arjuna for these achievements. In the absence of any additional performance to back up his claim he also fell out of the race.

In other cases also the panel could not find someone with anything substantially additional to their list of performances that had either been considered in the past or had earned them some award.

 The panel picked 15 names for the Arjuna award for the year. Woman basketball star Geethu Anna Jose, who is also the captain of the national team, and volleyball player Tom Joseph have finally got their due after a long wait.

The others are archer Abhishek Verma, doubles badminton star V Diju,  800M runner Tintu Luka, boxer Jai Bhagwan, para athlete H N Girisha (he had  applied for both Khel Ratna and Arjuna), rower Saji Thomas, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, golfer Anirban Lahiri, kabaddi player Mamata Poojary, shooter Heena Sidhu, who had a spectacular season last year where she won the gold medal in World Cup Finals in Munich, squash player Anaka Alankamony, Greco-roman wrestler Sunil Kumar Rana and weightlifter Renu Bala Chanu.

Ashwin, who sat out the first three Tests of the ongoing series in England, is the fastest Indian to reach 100 wickets in the longer format of the game.

The selection panel members for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award included Anju Bobby George, Kunjarani Devi, two mediapersons and three government representatives, including Sports Authority of India (SAI) Director General Jiji Thomson.