Sporting fraternity welcomes move to rename Khel Ratna

Better late than never: Sporting fraternity welcomes decision to rename Khel Ratna after Dhyan Chand

Anju Bobby George, who won the Khel Ratna in 2003, said sports awards should be named after sportspersons

A statue of hockey wizard Major Dhyan Chand. Credit: PTI File Photo

India's sporting fraternity on Friday welcomed the renaming of the Khel Ratna in the honour of hockey wizard Major Dhyan Chand, saying that it is only befitting that the country's highest sporting honour is named after one of its greatest.

Dhyan Chand is widely regarded as the greatest player in hockey. In his career that spanned from 1926 to 1949, he clinched Olympic medals in 1928, 1932 and 1936.

The country's National Sports Day is also celebrated to commemorate his birth anniversary on August 29.

India's only athletics medal winner in World Championships, Anju Bobby George, who won the Khel Ratna in 2003, said sports awards should be named after sportspersons.

"It is high time we name our sporting awards after our sporting legends. It is the right step. Dhyan Chand is our sporting hero and hockey legend and hockey is our national game.

"It is only fitting that the country's highest sporting award is named after Dhyan Chand at a time when India won an Olympic medal after 41 years," she told PTI.

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Commending the decision, former hockey skipper Ajitpal Singh said although the recognition came late it's better than never.

"It's a welcome move. It's a good decision which the Prime Minister has taken. Sports awards should always be in the name of sportspersons and there is no bigger sportsperson in the country other than Dhyanchand ji. The recognition came late but better late than never," Singh said.

Olympic bronze-winning boxer Vijender Singh said while honouring the memory of Dhyan Chand is a good move but merely that is not enough to raise the standard of sports in the country.

"Nothing against the move because we all respect Dhyan Chand ji's immense contribution but the government ought to do more than this to support sportspersons. They need facilities at the basic level, unless we can do that, mere renaming of awards won't make much of a difference," he told PTI.

Making the announcement of the change on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had been getting many requests from citizens across India to name the Khel Ratna Award after Major Dhyan Chand.

"Major Dhyan Chand is India's most legendary & loved sporting icons; it is only befitting that India’s Highest Sporting Honour be named after him.

"His life and achievements have inspired generations of sportspersons who have achieved glory for India," Sports Minister Anurag Thakur tweeted after the announcement.

The Khel Ratna was earlier named after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The change comes in the wake of exceptional performances by the men's and women's hockey teams in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics.

While the men's side claimed a bronze medal which was India's 12th Olympic hockey medal that came after a gap of 41 long years, the women's side put forth its best-ever performance in the Games, finishing a creditable fourth.