Girls shine at Khel Ratna awards

Girls shine at Khel Ratna awards

The National Sports Awards ceremony on Monday was dominated by women who could proudly claim they have blazed a trail in their respective disciplines.

For the first time, there were four recipients of the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award – shuttler P V Sindhu, wrestler Sakshi Malik, gymnast Dipa Karmakar and the lone gentleman in the pack, shooter Jitu Rai.

In 2009, boxers Vijender Singh and M C Mary Kom and wrestler Sushil Kumar were jointly awarded the Khel Ratna.

The Rio Olympic Games for India was salvaged by women athletes and thus their increasing presence at the award function was no surprise. Sakshi broke India’s barren run in Rio de Janeiro with a bronze in women’s 58kg, thus becoming the first Indian woman wrestler to win an Olympic medal. Sindhu emerged from the shadows of iconic Saina Nehwal to become the first Indian shuttler to win a silver in the Olympics. Dipa became the first gymnast to qualify for Olympics and to have finished fourth at the Games, warming the hearts with her courage to perform Produnova, the ‘vault of death.’

All three women spent the past few days at a chaotic pace reserved only for celebrities. They had their families, equally worn out due to various engagements, in tow to shield them from the incessant media glare.

“The past few days have been really hectic. I have hardly got time to rest. I am really happy and thankful for all the appreciation and the award,” said Sindhu.

Jitu, quiet and shy, has been performing exceptionally in international shooting.
Barring the Olympic medal, he has nearly every medal in his kitty, including a silver at the World Championships, apart from gold medals in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

“I am definitely happy but if I had got the medal it would have been even better,” said Jitu. Sakshi was equally delighted, even though a bit overwhelmed by the attention. “It is a very proud moment for me and my family. I had a very nice experience meeting Sachin Tendulkar and the Prime Minister yesterday. To be a Khel Ratna was beyond my wildest dreams,” she said.

The four athletes received the Khel Ratna awards from President Pranab Mukherjee. The award consists of a medal, a certificate and a cash prize of Rs 7.5 lakh.

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