July 21, 2009 9:34:39 am
Former All-England badminton champion Pullela Gopichand is set to become the only Indian sportsperson to win all the countrys prestigious sports awards both as player and coach. The 1995 Arjuna awardee and the 2001 Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna winner has now been named as one of the recipients of the Dronacharya awards in 2009. He has also won the Padma Shri in 2005.
I didnt know that I am the only one to achieve this distinction,but it sure feels great. I am proud to receive this award, Gopichand told The Indian Express from Hyderabad on Monday.
The soft-spoken national coach sees this new achievement as yet another affirmation of the fact that he has a lot more responsibilities now. This only adds a whole new dimension to my responsibility to what I am doing now, he said. Awards are important for motivation but I have never worked for awards. I will continue doing what I am doing now but with more responsibility because these awards are not just recognition of your achievements but also a mark of respect.
His ward Saina Nehwal is among the Arjuna awards shortlist this year,on a list that includes shooter Ronjan Sodhi and hockey player Ignace Tirkey.
Three Khel Ratnas?
The countrys highest sports award,the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna,this year may go to not one but three athletes. While five-time womens world boxing champion MC Mary Kom is the front-runner,the names of Olympic bronze medallists Vijender (boxing) and Sushil Kumar (wrestling) are also being considered. Sources said that it is most likely that all three of them might get it.
There are precedents for joint winners to the Khel Ratna. While Anjali Bhagwat and KM Beenamol shared it in 2003,Leander Paes and N Kunjarani Devi shared the honours in 1997. So it wont be something new,besides all three of them are deserving, sources in the committee said.
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