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Top 5 controversies that rocked Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awards

Top 5 controversies that rocked Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awards

Suraj Iyer

Published: 21 Aug 2020 2:24 PM GMT

Controversies have occurred in sports many times due to cheating, doping or other reasons. But there have been instances in Indian sports where controversies happened due when distributing national sports award, given on August 29th. National sports day marks the event of Major Dhyan Chand’s birthday. Here are five moments that were part of controversies related to Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Awards.

Bajrang Punia

The freestyle wrestler had scored 88 points to be nominated for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2018. However, the award was passed over to Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli who had zero points due to lack of a point scoring system in cricket, and weightlifter Mirabai Chanu who scored 44 points. Controversy rose when Bajrang expressed grievance over not being nominated for the award despite scoring more than both his athlete counterparts and addressed this to Sports minister and former Olympic shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. He later received the Khel Ratna award in 2019 given by Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju.

Two recommendations for the Khel Ratna award in 2002

The Khel Ratna award in its history had usually seen the award being received by a single sportsperson. However, controversy grew in 2002 where athlete K.M. Beenamol and Anjali Bhagwat, a shooter were both recommended for the Khel Ratna award. The selection committee had to cut down to one player, but this saw criticism from National Rifle Association of India which expressed sorrow over the shooter’s efforts going unrecognised. Thus, 2002 was the first year where the Khel Ratna award was jointly awarded to both athletes. Instances where more than one athlete was awarded the Khel Ratna occurred again in 2009, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Ronjan Sodhi

Ronjan Sodhi was part of the London Olympics 2012 which did not fare well for the shooter. The former world number 1 was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award on 2013. This turned heads as it was the third consecutive year that the prestigious award was bestowed to a shooter. Ronjan had secured a gold medal in the Asian Games in 2012 and had also won a silver medal in the Commonwealth games.

Sania Mirza

Sania Mirza is a well established player in tennis and is lauded for the many achievements she has brought for India. However, when awarded the Khel Ratna award in 2015, many athletes showed disappointment. Some coaches also showed disdain over the fact that selection process for the award was not transparent and athletes like HN Girisha and Vinod Kumar expressed this over media. This controversy occurred despite the selection process being based on a performance points based system.

5 Khel Ratna nominees

2020 is an eventful year for the Khel Ratna award with five nominees. Rohit Sharma, Mariyappan Thangavelu, Manika Batra, Vinesh Phogat and Rani Rampal were all recommended for the Khel Ratna award. However, the selection panel also nominated 29 people for the Arjuna award which has resulted in controversy. Athletes like wrestler Sushil Kumar told sources that pride of the award must be maintained due to the selection committees’ decision on choosing so many athletes in a non Olympic year.

Also read: Sehwag, Sardar in 12-member selection panel for National Sports Awards

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