Table tennis legend Achanta Sharath Kamal was presented with Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna, the country’s highest sporting honour, by President Droupadi Murmu at a glittering National Sports Awards ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Wednesday.
While Sharath is the sole recipient of the Khel Ratna award, 25 athletes including shuttlecocks Lakshya Sen, HS Prannoy, female boxer Nikhat Zareen and track & field athletes Eldhose Paul and Avinash Sable were awarded the Arjuna Award.
An honor to honor the prestigious Maj. Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award from Hon. Draupadi Murmuji, President of India. It is gratifying that my achievements in table tennis are being recognized with this prestigious award! @rashtrapatibhvn pic.twitter.com/kOLTSVDzml
— Sharath Kamal OLY (@sharathkamal1) November 30, 2022
The creme de la creme of Indian sport was recognized for its achievements in recent years at a specially organized ceremony. The event is traditionally held every year to commemorate the birth anniversary of hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand on August 29. The event was also held on a different date last year.
The star attraction of the ceremony was Sharath, who received his Khel Ratna award to thunderous applause from the selected dignitaries in attendance at the Durbar Hall.
The Khel Ratna is awarded for the spectacular and most outstanding achievements of an athlete in the past four years. It carries a cash prize of Rs 25 lakh, a medal and a roll of honor. The Arjuna award has a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh, a bronze statue and a scroll of honor.
Sharath, 40, had returned from the Birmingham Commonwealth Games as the most decorated Indian athlete with four medals. He is the second table tennis player after Manika Batra to be awarded the Khel Ratna.
In addition to a mixed doubles yellow metal, Sharath also won his singles gold after 16 years, the first he won at the Melbourne CWG in 2006. The lanky paddler has won a whopping 13 medals from the CWG overall. He also won two bronze medals at the 2018 Asian Games and is now seeking elusive Olympic glory at the 2024 Paris Games.
While Sharath took the spotlight away, shuttler Sen, world champion boxer Zareen, boxer Amit Panghal and triple jumper Eldhose Paul, all gold medalists at Birmingham Games, were the main attractions among Arjuna winners. The Khel Ratna was the first award presented by the president, followed by the Dronacharya award in the lifetime category, won by Rohit Sharma’s coach Dinesh Jawahar Lad, football coach Bimal Prafulla Ghosh and wrestling mentor Raj Singh.
The Dronacharya Award is the regular category given to Jiwanjot Singh Teja (archery), Mohammad Ali Qamar (boxing), Suma Siddharth Shirur (para-shooting) and Sujeet Maan (wrestling). Discus thrower Seema Punia was the first to receive the Arjuna award from the president, followed by Paul, Sable, Sen, Prannoy and Panghal, among others.
Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime Achievement was won by Ashwini Akkunji C (athletics), Dharamvir Singh (field hockey), BC Suresh (kabaddi) and Nir Bahadur Gurung (para-athletics). Sreeja, who teamed up with Sharath to win mixed doubles gold in Birmingham, described the moment as unforgettable.
“It is an honor for me to get the Arjuna award. This kind of recognition is very motivating for a young athlete like me, and I want to thank my parents, Somnath Sir, and all my coaches and trainers,” she said.
The ceremony was also attended by Sports Minister Anurag Thakur along with a host of other dignitaries, including his deputy Nisith Pramanik. Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award 2022: Achanta Sharath Kamal.
Arjuna Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Sports and Games 2022: Seema Punia (Athletics), Eldhose Paul (Athletics), Avinash Mukund Sable (Athletics), Lakshya Sen (Badminton), HS Prannoy (Badminton), Amit (Boxing), Nikhat Zareen (Boxing), Bhakti Pradip Kulkarni (Chess), R Praggnanandhaa (Chess), Deep Grace Ekka (Hockey).
Sushila Devi (Judo), Sakshi Kumari (Kabaddi), Nayan Moni Saikia (Lawn Bowl), Sagar Kailas Ovhalkar (Mallakhamb), Elavenil Valarivan (Shooting), Omprakash Mitharval (Shooting), Sreeja Akula (Table Tennis), Vikas Thakur (Weightlifting) , Anshu (Wrestling), Sarita (Wrestling), Parveen (Wushu), Manasi Girishchandra Joshi (Para Badminton), Tarun Dhillon (Para Badminton), Swapnil Sanjay Patil (Para Swimming), Berlin Anika J (Deaf Badminton).
Dronacharya Award for Outstanding Coaches in Sports and Games 2022 Regular Category: Jiwanjot Singh Teja (Archery), Mohammad Ali Qamar (Boxing), Suma Siddharth Shirur (Para Shooting), Sujeet Maan (Wrestling).
Lifetime category: Dinesh Jawahar Lad (cricket), Bimal Prafulla Ghosh (football), Raj Singh (wrestling).
Dhyan Chand Award for lifetime achievement in sports and games 2022: Ashwini Akkunji C (athletics), Dharamvir Singh (field hockey), BC Suresh (Kabaddi), Nir Bahadur Gurung (para-athletics).
Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar 2022: TransStadia Enterprises Private Limited, Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, Ladakh Ski & Snowboard Association.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (MAKA) Trophy 2022: Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.
Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Awards: Naina Dhakad (Land Adventure), Shubham Dhananjay Vanmali (Water Adventure), Group Captain Kunwar Bhawani Singh Samyal (Life Time Achievement).