Double Olympic medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar on Thursday indicated that the selection committee runs the risk of lowering the dignity of the annual national sports awards by making too many recommendations.
An unprecedented five Khel Ratna and 29 Arjuna award recommendations have been made to the sports minister by the selection panel, raising eyebrows.
The champion wrestler did not say it in as many words but hinted that giving away the awards to so many athletes can end up lowering their dignity.
He said it is necessary to, instead, “maintain the pride” attached with these awards.
“I congratulate the ones who have been nominated but I feel people should work towards maintaining the dignity of these national sports awards. This is not even an Olympic year,” Sushil told PTI.
“I myself is an athlete, so I am happy for all, but we must maintain the pride attached with these awards.”
In 2016, the government honoured four athletes — shuttler PV Sindhu, wrestler Sakshi Malik, gymnast Dipa Karmakar and shooter Jitu Rai — with the Khel Ratna after their performances at the Rio Olympics.
But this year the awards committee has recommended five athletes — cricketer Rohit Sharna, wrestler Vinesh Phogat, paddler Manika Batra, women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal and para-athlete Mariyappan Thangvelu for the county’s top sporting honour.
Sushil, who won a bronze in 2008 and a silver in the 2012 edition of the Olympic Games, also did not understand why athletes who have already received the highest sporting honour, were considered for an award that sits lower on the rung.
Malik and Mirabai Chanu, who have won the Khel Ratna in the past, applied for Arjuna this year and the committee recommended their names.
“Not only this, even it has been noted that a performance which has already fetched an athlete award in the past, has been considered again this year,” said the 37-year-old.
Sushil is keen to earn another shot at the Olympics and is training at the Chhatarasal Stadium.
He will see competition not only from youngsters such as Jitender Kumar but also old rival Narsingh Yadav, who is getting back to action in 74kg after serving his four-year doping ban.