Sharath Kamal bestowed with Khel Ratna, Bhakti receives Arjuna award

AGENCIES | DECEMBER 01, 2022, 12:36 AM IST
Sharath Kamal bestowed with Khel Ratna, Bhakti receives Arjuna award

President Droupadi Murmu presents Arjuna Award to Goan chess player Bhakti Kulkarni at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, on Wednesday.

Photo Credits: PTI

Table tennis legend Achanta Sharath Kamal was on Wednesday bestowed with the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna, the country's highest sporting honour, by President Droupadi Murmu in a glittering National Sports Awards ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here on Wednesday.

While Sharath is the lone Khel Ratna award recipient, 25 sportspersons, including Goan chess player Bhakti Kulkarni, shuttlers Lakshya Sen, HS Prannoy, woman boxer Nikhat Zareen, track and field athletes Eldhose Paul and Avinash Sable, were conferred with the Arjuna Award. Bhakti is only the third Goan and the first woman from Goa to win the prestigious award. Footballers Brahmanand Shankhwalkar (1998) and Bruno Coutinho (2001) are the only other recipients of the award from the State, making Bhakti also the first non-footballer to win the second-highest sports award in the country.

The creme de la creme of Indian sports was recognised for their achievements in the past few years at a specially organised ceremony. The event is traditionally held every year to commemorate the birth anniversary of hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand on August 29. But last year also, the event was held on another date.

The star attraction of the ceremony was Sharath, who received his Khel Ratna award amid thunderous applause from the select dignitaries present at the Durbar Hall. The Khel Ratna is given for the spectacular and most outstanding performances by a sportsperson over a period of the previous four years. It carries a cash prize of Rs 25 lakh, a medal and a scroll of honour. The Arjuna award carries a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh, a bronze statue and a scroll of honour.

The 40-year-old Sharath had returned from Birmingham Commonwealth Games as the most-decorated Indian athlete with four medals. He is the second table tennis player after Manika Batra to get the Khel Ratna.

Besides a yellow metal in the mixed doubles, Sharath also pocketed his singles gold after 16 years, the first having won at the 2006 Melbourne CWG. The lanky paddler has claimed a whopping 13 medals from the CWG overall. He also won two bronze medals at the 2018 Asian Games, and is now in search of an elusive Olympic glory at the 2024 Paris Games.

While Sharath took away the spotlight, the star attractions among Arjuna awardees were shuttler Sen, world champion boxer Zareen, boxer Amit Panghal and triple jumper Eldhose Paul, all gold medallists at Birmingham Games.

The Khel Ratna was the first award to given by the President, followed by the Dronacharya award in the lifetime category, won by Rohit Sharma's coach Dinesh Jawahar Lad, football coach Bimal Prafulla Ghosh and wrestling mentor Raj Singh. The Dronacharya Award is the regular category were handed to Jiwanjot Singh Teja (archery), Mohammad Ali Qamar (boxing), Suma Siddharth Shirur (para shooting) and Sujeet Maan (wrestling).

Discus thrower Seema Punia was the first to receive the Arjuna award from the President, followed by Paul, Sable, Sen, Prannoy and Panghal, among others. Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime Achievement was won by Ashwini Akkunji C (athletics), Dharamvir Singh (hockey), B C Suresh (kabaddi) and Nir Bahadur Gurung (para athletics). 

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