Jude, Aditi, Rai elated with elite honours

Jude, Aditi, Rai elated with elite honours

Jude Felix

Dronacharya award winner Jude Felix feels the honour will spur him to fulfill unfinished promises while Arjuna award recipient Aditi Ashok reckons the belated acknowledgement comes as an adrenaline boost to resurrect a career that's hit a rough over the last couple of years.

"The biggest disappointment in the 12 years that I represented India as a player and captain was the failure to win a single international medal," Felix told DH on Friday. "That hurts me even today. Every athlete aspires to win laurels for the country and when you don't, you have an empty feeling. That's why after I hung up the boots, I wanted to take up coaching. I was away in Singapore for a few years after retiring and that's where my coaching aspiration took wings.

"Although I was in Singapore, my heart was always beating for India. I really wanted to get back and give something for the country. My goal was to win an international medal that I couldn't win as a player. Hopefully, this acknowledgement by the Sports Ministry will help me return to the national set-up and fulfill that unfinished project. I've served the junior and senior teams in different capacities and I have a vision. Sadly, before I could complete that I was taken off. Hope this award opens the door to the national team again," Felix said.

The former midfielder, rated as one of the country's finest players, feels the coaching system in the country needs an overhaul. "One of the reasons why we couldn't win medals during our time was because of the poor standard of coaching. Many of my compatriots will attest to this. That's why, after my stint with the junior team ended last year, I've been working on fine-tuning coaches. In fact, that's what I listed as my accomplishments. Of course, the standard of coaching has indeed improved from my times but I would like to make it better. The Dronacharya ensures my thoughts and vision will be respected," said Felix.

Aditi, who is busy playing in the AIG Women's British Open at Troon, was delighted to be finally acknowledged. "It’s immensely gratifying to be conferred with the Arjuna Award. This recognition will definitely motivate me to work harder to excel at the highest level. Historically male golfers have won the award more often so it’s great to be a woman golfer getting this recognition and hopefully, it will help grow women’s golf in India."

It looked like the award will elude the gifted 22-year-old. Despite becoming the first Indian to triumph on the Ladies European Tour when she won the 2016 Hero Women's Indian Open and the youngest from the country to secure a spot in the LPGA a year later, she didn't gain the attention of the decision-makers. When asked if she ever felt let down at being ignored, Aditi said her focus always remained on getting better on the course.

"I feel awards should not be asked for but given to you. Every time I was ignored I felt maybe that was not enough and strove to get better. Failures and ignorance don't distract me. My goal is to try and shoot as low as possible and win titles. It's important for athletes not to sulk and keep going strong. That's what I did and I have finally been honoured. It's an award for my patience and perseverance. This will motivate me immensely to resurrect my game."

Purushotham honoured

Another Karnataka personality to be recognised for his impeccable contribution to sport was athletics coach Purushotham Rai, who won the Dronacharya award in the lifetime category. “It took a long time for me to get this recognition but I am happy I have finally won this award,” the 79-year-old told DH.

In his coaching career that spans over 30 years, Purushotham has trained international athletes like Ashwini Nachappa, MK Asha, Rosa Kutty, GG Pramila, Jaicy Thomas, EB Shyla, SD Eashan and Muralikuttan. “Usually the federation recommends the personalities and somehow my name never came in the list. This time, the sports ministry made a new rule of self-nomination. So I did a self recommendation,” said Purushotham, who retired as a coach in 2001.   

(With inputs from Vivek MV)

List of awards: Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award: Rohit Sharma (cricket), Mariyappan T (para athletics), Manika Batra (table tennis), Vinesh (wrestling), Rani (Hockey).

Dronacharya Award (Lifetime): Dharmendra Tiwary (archery), Purushotham Rai (athletics), Shiv Singh (boxing), Romesh Pathania (hockey), Krishan Kumar Hooda (kabaddi), Vijay Bhalchandra Munishwar (para powerlifting), Naresh Kumar (tennis), Om Parkash Dahiya (wrestling).

Regular category: Jude Felix Sebastian (hockey), Yogesh Malviya (mallakhamb), Jaspal Rana (shooting), Kuldeep Kumar Handoo (wushu), Gaurav Khanna (para badminton)

Arjuna Award: Atanu Das (archery), Dutee Chand (athletics), Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy (badminton), Chirag Chandrasekhar Shetty (badminton), Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (basketball), Subedar Manish Kaushik (boxing), Lovlina Borgohain (boxing), Ishant Sharma (cricket), Deepti Sharma (cricket), Sawant Ajay Anant (equestrian), Sandesh Jhingan (football), Aditi Ashok (golf), Akashdeep Singh (hockey), Deepika (hockey), Deepak (kabaddi), Kale Sarika Sudhakar (kho kho), Dattu Baban Bhokanal (rowing), Manu Bhaker (shooting), Saurabh Chaudhary (shooting), Madhurika Suhas Patkar (table tennis), Divij Sharan (tennis), Shiva Keshavan (winter sports), Divya Kakran (wrestling), Rahul Aware (wrestling), Suyash Narayan Jadhav (para swimming), Sandeep Para (athletics) Manish Narwal (para shooting)

Dhyan Chand Award: Kuldip Singh Bhullar (athletics), Jincy Philips (athletics), Pradeep Shrikrishna Gandhe (badminton), Trupti Murgunde (badminton), N Usha (boxing), Lakha Singh (boxing), Sukhvinder Singh Sandhu (football), Ajit Singh (hockey), Manpreet Singh (kabaddi), J Ranjith Kumar (para athletics), Satyaprakash Tiwari (para badminton), Manjeet Singh (rowing), Late Shri Sachin Nag (swimming), Nandan P Bal (tennis), Netarpal Hooda (wrestling).