Olympians steal spotlight

Rio trailblazers promise to build on successes as they target higher honours

Olympians steal spotlight

Vinesh Phogat, with her right leg bandaged, was wheeled in to receive the Arjuna award. It was a poignant moment shared by all those present at the Rashtrapati Bhavan for National Sports Awards on Monday.

President Pranab Mukherjee didn’t mind stepping down from the stage to present the award to the promising grappler, whose campaign at the Rio Olympic Games was painfully cut short by a knee injury sustained during the opening bout. She received the loudest of cheers at the Darbar Hall, leaving a lump in her throat.

“I am not sure how I am feeling. It has been a very painful period both physically and mentally. But I can’t express how much I am moved to see the love and support of people all around me. Now I just want to recover quickly and return to training. Tokyo Olympics will be a very tough wait for me, I hope it could come sooner,” said an emotional Vinesh who had injured her right knee during her bout with China’s Sun Yanan in Rio.

The grappler was a tad wistful as she watched the two girls who fetched medals in Rio — shuttler PV Sindhu (silver) and her friend and fellow wrestler Sakshi Malik (bronze) collect the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award. “I had prepared very well for the Games,” she said, eyes downcast.

However, she was delighted to see her uncle and coach Mahabir Phogat, credited for transforming the scene of women’s wrestling, receive the Dronacharya Award.

Sindhu and Malik alongwith gymnast Dipa Karmakar and shooter Jitu Rai were named the recipients of the highest sporting honour in the country.

“This is just the start. I hope this would turn out to be the stepping stone for many more medals for me,” said Sindhu.

Dipa, whose coach Bishweshwar Nandi also got the Dronacharya award this day, was simply elated.

“Today whatever I have done it is because of Nandi sir. I never felt the need for any foreign coach. Without getting the medal I have got so much appreciation and support from everyone, so I am determined to work my hardest to get a medal in Tokyo Olympics,” said Dipa, who hails from Tripura.

“My life has not changed but yes, the way gymnastics was viewed earlier has changed. This award is very important for me because it is for the first time a gymnast has got the award and the sport has got recognition. This has made me happy and honoured.”

Arjuna for Raghunath
Hockey ace V R Raghunath was finally at ease after receiving his Arjuna award.
“After playing 10-12 years of international hockey, it is good to get the recognition. In a team game, it is always a bit difficult to get noticed. But credit goes to my team, the support staff, Hockey India and my family who supported me all through my journey. I have had a long career, so I feel I can enjoy this award,” Raghunath said.

Others to win the Arjuna included Lalita Babar, who was tenth in the 3000M steeplechase at the Rio Games, cricketer Ajinkya Rahane, who was absent due to national duty, Indian football team’s goalkeeper Subrata Pal and shooter Gurpreet Singh.
Noted swimming coach S Pradeep Kumar was among the six who received the Dronacharya award.

 

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