On the eve of the 70th Republic Day, the government announced the names of Gautam Gambhir, Sunil Chhetri, Bajrang Punia among the eight sports stars to be honoured with the prestigious Padma Shri Awards while mountaineer Bachendri Pal was on Friday conferred with the Padma Bhushan, India’s highest civilian award.
64-year old Bachendri Pal, who became the first Indian woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1984, has been bestowed with the honour for ‘distinguished service of a high order.’
Meanwhile, World Cup-winning cricketer Gambhir, India football captain Chhetri and World Championship silver medallist wrestler Bajrang, have been conferred with the Padma Shri, along with Dronavalli Harika (chess), Sharath Kamal (table tennis), Bombayla Devi Laishram (archery), Ajay Thakur (kabaddi) and Prashanti Singh (basketball).
The 37-year old Gambhir, who played match-winning knocks in the finals of India’s World T20 win in 2007 and the 2011 World Cup title triumph, has been recommended for the Padma Shri – India’s fourth highest civilian award. Having played 58 Tests, 147 ODIs and 37 T20Is for India since making his international debut in 2003, the left-handed batsman announced his retirement from all forms of cricket on December 2018 after scoring 10,324 International runs.
Chhetri, who guided India in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 this month, is all set to become the sixth Indian Footballer to be awarded with the Padma Shri. He went past Argentina great Lionel Messi to become the second highest active international goal scorer with 67 goals behind Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal. Chhetri has won 3 Nehru Cups (2007, 2009, 2012), an AFC Challenge Cup (2012), and 2 SAFF Championships (2011, 2016) in his illustrious career.
Bajrang, who lashed out at the government last year for not including him for the Khel Ratna awards which were taken by cricket captain Virat Kohli and weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, is a World Championship silver and bronze medallist and had also won gold at Asian Games and Commonwealth Games in 2018.
Here’s the full list of recipients of the Padma awards in the sports category:
Bachendri Pal – Mountaineering
Gautam Gambhir – Cricket
Sunil Chhetri – Football
Harika Dronavalli – Chess
Sharath Kamal – Table Tennis
Bambayla Devi – Archery
Prashanti Singh – Basketball
Ajay Thakur – Kabaddi
Bajrang Punia – Wrestling
The government conferred Padma awards to 112 people this year including four Padma Vibushan, 14 Padma Bhushan and 94 Padma Shri.