Indian women's hockey team captain Rani on Friday said winning the Khel Ratna, the country's highest sporting honour, will motivate her to bring home more laurels. The Sports Ministry on Friday decided to honour Rani with the Khel Ratna along with star cricketer Rohit Sharma, wrestler Vinesh Phogat, Paralympic gold-winner Mariyappan Thangavelu and table tennis player Manika Batra.
"It is a really proud moment for me and especially for my family. The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award is one of the most prestigious awards that a sportsperson can receive, and I owe this to my coaches, teammates, friends and family for their constant support since the beginning," Rani said in a release issued by Hockey India.
"It is an amazing feeling when your hard work is rewarded, and I believe this award will serve as a great motivation for me and players like me to keep striving for bigger feats and make the country proud. I also would like to congratulate all the other award winners too," said Rani, who is currently based out of the SAI Centre in Bengaluru. The 25-year-old had helped the Indian team secure a berth at the Tokyo Olympics, besides leading the side into the final of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, where it lost to Japan 1-2.
The ministry also honoured Ajit Singh with the Dhyan Chand Award, Romesh Pathania with the Dronacharya Award (Life-Time achievement), Jude Felix with the Dronacharya Award and Akashdeep Singh and Deepika with the Arjuna Award. An elated Akashdeep said, "It is one of the most pleasing moments of my career. I would like to thank the jury, and all my coaches, teammates, friends and family who have been a part of my hockey journey so far. I believe patience and hard work always earn you rewards, and I am very thankful to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports for recognising my hard work and I would also like to thank Hockey India for always being a pillar of support in my career."
In a first, the awards will be held virtually on August 29, the National Sports Day, instead of the Rashtrapati Bhavan this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hockey India also congratulated the award winners. "Rani has inspired several youngsters to take up the sport of hockey in India through her fantastic performances throughout her career," HI's officiating president, Gyanendro Ningombam, said. "I would like to congratulate Akashdeep Singh and Deepika for being conferred with the Arjuna Award for their contribution to the sport.... And also Romesh Pathania, Jude Felix and Ajit Singh for their outstanding contribution to Indian hockey over the years, which has been duly recognised by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports."