The award’s committee headed by India’s legendary athlete P T Usha met here on Friday to finalise the winners of this year’s national sports awards.
Saina has been in great form and recently won three back-to-back tournaments, including two Super Series titles. The 20-year-old from Hyderabad clinched the Indian Open Grand Prix, Singapore Open and Indonesian Open.
Earlier this month, she jumped one spot to World No 2, and it came as a major boost for the star shuttler ahead of the World Championships in Paris from August 23. Saina is now behind top-ranked Chinese Yihan Wang.
“I am very happy and it is a surprise to me. It has come just before the World Championships. In fact, the last couple of months were great for me. I have done consistently well this year,” said Saina.
“Everything has happened quickly in my career. But it has been tough for me as well. Things will be different now as expectations will be high,” she said. Saina has been made the captain of the Indian team for the World Championships.
Saina, who won the Arjuna last year, was the first Indian woman to reach the singles quarterfinals at the Olympics in Beijing and the first Indian to win the World Junior Championships.
Last year, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna was awarded to Olympic bronze medallists boxer Vijender Singh, wrestler Sushil Kumar and four-time world champion woman pugilist MC Mary Kom.
Ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh, captain of the Indian women’s cricket team Jhulan Goswami, swimmer Rehan Poncha and boxer Dinesh Kumar are among the top sportspersons who are tipped to receive the Arjuna awards.
The selection committee will submit the names to the government which will formally announce the list in the next few days. Generally, the names submitted by the committee are approved but the Sports Ministry can make changes.
Woman hockey player Jasjeet Kaur national record holder in 400M hurdles Joseph Abraham and discus thrower Krishna Poonia were in the 15-strong list, according to sources.
The second youngest Grandmaster in the world, Parimarjan Negi, Olympian wrestler Rajiv Tomar, footballer Deepak Mondal, shooter Sanjeev Rajput, volleyball player Kapil Dev, kabbadi player Dinesh Kumar and para-Olympian Jagseer Singh are the others recommended for Arjuna.
List of nominees for Arjuna award: Krishna Poonia (athletics), Joseph Abraham (athletics), Dinesh Kumar (boxing), Parimarjan Negi (chess), Jhulan Goswami (cricket), Deepak Mondal (football), Rajiv Tomar (wrestling), Sandeep Singh (hockey), Jasjit Kaur (hockey), Jagseer Singh (paralympics), Dinesh Kumar (kabaddi), Kapil Dev (volleyball), Rehan Poncha (swimming), Sanjeev Rajput (shooting).