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No athlete wants to risk delay for the Khel Ratna when they deserve it: Bajrang Punia

No athlete wants to risk delay for the Khel Ratna when they deserve it: Bajrang Punia

Abhishek Arora

Published: 21 Sep 2018 6:43 AM GMT

Being snubbed for the Khel Ratna has not gone down too well with Bajrang Punia. The grappler is of the opinion that his medals and achievements are worthy of the most prestigious sporting honour. Punia has come down to Delhi, leaving his training, to meet Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore -- the honourary sports minister -- and express his displeasure of the whole situation.

On the sidelines of a media event in Central Delhi, Bajrang said, "I want a justification for why my name is not included. I have absolutely no issue with the names that have been included. Even my guru Yogeshwar is with me in this because he also knows that I am right in my place and that is the reason why he is behind me. I, or for that matter any athlete would not want to take the risk of delaying getting the Khel Ratna if we deserve it. I felt bad, and that is why I am vocal about it."
The 2018 Asiad and Gold Coast Commonwealth Gold Medallist felt that it would have definitely felt better to receive the honour without asking for it, but the situation is such now that he is not afraid to move court if the Ministry still sticks with its decision of giving the Khel Ratna to Virat Kohli and Mirabai Chanu and not him. A similar case had happened with Manoj Kumar in 2014 when the committee had disregarded the veteran boxer for the Arjuna Award. He moved to Delhi High Court after the snub and won the case to later receive the honour. "I have got time to meet our Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore today. Seeing how it goes, I will decide whether to go to court or not. If there is no other option remaining, then that is my only choice.
Mere hisaab
se peeth tabhi thapthapani chahiye jab aap medal laate hai (In my opinion, it is best to get appreciation when you bring home a medal and not at some later time)," further added an aggrieved Bajrang. A number system had recently been implemented to adjudge who will be the recipient of the Khel Ratna. However, the exact criteria are still hazy and not transparent. Based on the achievements, Bajrang has the maximum points. However, there is no particular points system in cricket, and the recipient is decided by a show of hands by the committee members. Bajrang is also unhappy that he has to lose out on precious time in preparation for the World Championships, which are slated to begin next month in Budapest, Hungary.
"I don't know if I will get this opportunity, again and again. Hence I am taking out the time to deal with the matter. In the process, I am losing out on crucial training time as I have already started preparing for the World Championships which begin on 20th October. Each day counts for us. If this situation were not there I would have been happy giving it all in training at the SAI centre,"
the grappler signed off.
Also read: Nothing can be bigger than standing in medal podium: Bajrang Punia
However, the circuit is rife with views of the converse as well. With Mirabai Chanu, the selection committee got it right in the sense that she has been the only World Champion in an Olympic event in this year gone by and her achievement does deserve a special mention. Debates can continue regarding the relevance of the points system in this day and age especially when we take into account that Cricket tournaments and Shooting world cups are not among the competitions considered when it comes to calculating points for the Khel Ratna. If the points system is indeed redundant, maybe it is time to rethink the process by which athletes are conferred the Khel Ratna with. Even withing this existing system, the points are only used to differentiate between athletes within their own sports. This basically means that if a wrestler was considered for the Khel Ratna, the honour would invariably fall on Punia and selecting a second wrestler ahead of him would be wrong. The black and white comparison which insinuates that he has the highest points among all athletes considered is just incomplete information. Even though the norm is to give the highest sporting honour to only one athlete in a year, there have been exceptions made in the past. In 2016, also the year of the Rio Olympics, P. V. Sindhu, Dipa Karmakar, Jitu Rai, and Sakshi Malik -- all were honoured with the Khel Ratna. In 2009, Mary Kom, Vijender Singh, and Sushil Kumar got the highest sporting honour. As we can see, there have been exceptions made in the past. So it would have only been justified to add Bajrang to the list if he is credible. The 24-year-old has an Asiad Gold, and Commonwealth gold to his name this year besides the Bronze he won at the Asian Championships. If we were to add up the points by his achievements, he would have the maximum number of aggregate points as per the Khel Ratna criteria. It will be interesting to see how the matter pans out after he meets the Sports Minister. The Wrestling Federation had also recommended Bajrang's name to the committee, but now this is Bajrang's battle to fight.
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