Double trap shooter Ronjan Sodhis name has been recommended for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award for 2013,but the Delhi-based 33-year-old could well have missed out if it wasnt for Anjali Bhagwat,a fellow shooter on the panel entrusted with the task of choosing winners.
Bhagwat,who was late for the meeting as she was caught up in a traffic jam,threw her weight behind Sodhi,who had gone down the pecking order to Paralympian HN Girisha and discus thrower Krishna Poonia after she reached the SAI headquarters.
Girisha had won silver in London in the high jump,while Poonia finished seventh at the London Olympics.
However,Bhagwat,a former Khel Ratna winner herself,impressed upon the chairman of the panel Michael Ferreira that Sodhi had been been overlooked in the past and hence must be rewarded for consistency. Shooters Gagan Narang in 2010,Vijay Kumar in 2011 and wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt in 2012 were winners when Sodhi was also in the fray.
Sodhis inclusion meant Girisha was to lose out and it became a race between the shooter and Poonia. In the ensuing vote of hands both Sodhi and Poonia were tied at 6-6. But then the Sports Authority of India director general Jiji Thomson,who didnt have voting rights,was asked to help break the deadlock and he backed Sodhi.
Sodhi was out of the reckoning in the meeting today. It was between Girisha and Poonia. But Anjali was able to convince the chairman Michael Ferreira that Sodhi deserved it more than the other two. Once the chairman was convinced,Girishas name was dropped, one of the members told The Indian Express on condition of anonymity on Tuesday.
The another point of debate revolved around the merits of former India volleyball skipper Tom Josephs application for the Arjuna award. His name was all but finalised,but he was sixteenth on the list. Thomson was pushing for Joseph,who had applied for the award on eight previous occasions.
But a few of the members,including Zafar Iqbal and Surinder Khanna,were of the opinion that adding Josephs name to the mandated list of 15 would take the sheen away from the prestigious awards.
His name was being pushed because he had been part of the Indian team for over a decade. But they havent won anything of significance. So the question came up as to why he should be given the award this year. We decided to stick to 15, a second member said.
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award: Ronjan Sodhi.
The Arjuna awardees: Virat Kohli (Cricket),Chekrovolu Swuro (Archery),Renjith Maheshwary (Athletics),P V Sindhu (Badminton),Kavita Chahal (Boxing),Rupesh Shah (Snooker),Gaganjeet Bhullar (Golf),Saba Anjum (Hockey),Rajkumari Rathore (Shooting),Joshna Chinappa (Squash),Mouma Das (Table Tennis),Neha Rathi (Wrestling),Dharmendra Dalal (Wrestling),Abhijeet Gupta (Chess) and Amit Kumar Saroha (Para sports).