India men’s cricket team captain Virat Kohli and weightlifter Mirabai Chanu on Tuesday were conferred with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award by President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The annual National Sports Awards were bestowed on the best athletes that the country has seen in the past one year.
Kohli is the third cricketer to be awarded the Khel Ratna after Sachin Tendulkar (1997) and MS Dhoni (2007). BCCI had recommended Kohli for the past three years but in 2016 he missed out owing to the Olympics where the award went to wrestler Sakshi Malik, shuttler PV Sindhu and gymnast Deepa Karmakar. Last year it went to hockey player Sardar Singh and para-athlete Devendra Jhajharia.
President Ram Nath Kovind confers National Sports Awards for 2018 at function in @rashtrapatibhvn. World champion weightlifter Saikhom #MirabaiChanu & Captain of Indian cricket team #ViratKohli received #RajivGandhiKhelRatnaAward. pic.twitter.com/ykmv5q9hma
— All India Radio News (@airnewsalerts) 25 September 2018
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) 25 September 2018
Earlier in the day, Chanu reflected on her excitement at the honour. “A really big day for me as I receive the prestigious #RajivGandhiKhelRatnaAward at the #RashtrapatiBhawan today. A big thanks to everyone who have supported me all throughout this journey. Special thanks to my family, my coaches, Govt, Federation, and my fans. Indeed grateful!” she wrote in a tweet. Chanu is the third weightlifter to win the prize after Karnam Malleswari (1995) and Nameirakpam Kunjarani (1996).
Khel Ratna, the highest sporting award, is usually awarded to two athletes with exceptional cases taking the count to three with shuttler Kidambi Srikanth also recommended subject to Sports Ministry’s approval.
20 athletes were conferred with the Arjuna Award including javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, sprinter Jinson Johnson and Hima Das, shuttler N Sikki Reddy, cricketer Smriti Mandhana and table tennis player Manika Batra to name a few. Batra tweeted, “As I go on to receive the prestigious #ArjunaAward today i really want to thank everyone who have supported me all these while. I would continue to strive for the best and bring more glory for the nation.”
The President also presented awards for best coaches under the Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand Awards.
Usually Sports Awards are held on August 29, on Major Dhyan Chand’s birth anniversary, but this year it has been pushed forward due to the Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang.
List of Award winners:
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: Virat Kohli, Mirabai Chanu
Arjuna Awards: Neeraj Chopra (Athletics), Jinson Johnson (Athletics), Hima Das (Athletics), N Sikki Reddy (Badminton), Satish Kumar (Boxing), Smriti Mandhana (Cricket), Shubhankar Sharma (Golf), Manpreet Singh (Hockey), Savita (Hockey), Col. Ravi Rathore (Polo), Rahi Sarnobat (Shooting), Ankur Mittal (Shooting), Shreyasi Singh (Shooting), Manika Batra (Table Tennis), G Sathiyan (Table Tennis), Rohan Bopanna (Tennis), Sumit (Wrestling), Pooja Kadian (Wushu), Ankur Dhama (Para-Athletics), Manoj Sarkar (Para-Badminton)
Dronacharya Awards: Achaiah Kuttappa (Boxing), Vijay Sharma (Weightlifting), A. Srinivasa Rao (Table Tennis), Sukhdev Singh Pannu (Athletics), Clarence Lobo (Hockey Lifetime achievement), Tarak Sinha (Cricket Lifetime Achievement), Jiwan Kumar Sharma (Judo Lifetime Achievement), V.R. Beedu (Athletics Lifetime Achievement)
Dhyan Chand Awards: Satyadev Prasad (Archery), Bharat Kumar Chetri (Hockey), Bobby Aloysius (Athletics), Chougale Dadu Dattatray (Wrestling)