| President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam presenting the Arjuna Award to Bengal’s Mantu Ghosh at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday. (PTI)
New Delhi: After a bitter controversy, the nation’s highest sporting honours were finally conferred on 33 — including cricketer Virender Sehwag and shooter Anjali Bhagwat — at a glittering function here on Friday.
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam gave away the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Arjuna, Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand Awards 2002 at the Rashtrapati Bhavan .
The newly-formed Arjuna Awards Committee had triggered off a controversy by nominating more sportspersons than stipulated in government guidelines. Then, it leaked the provisional list to the media.
The government then declined to accept the list and asked the committee to cut down the nominations, but the sports ministry decided to accept all recommendations as an exception.
But the bitterness and wrangling were set aside once the ceremony unfolded with the customary national anthem.
Khel Ratna winners — Bhagwat and athlete K.M. Beenamol, in lemon yellow silk sarees and maroon blazers — were the first to collect their medals, scrolls of honour and trophies amid thunderous applause. The cash prize of Rs 5 lakh was split between the two, but the duo said there were no hard feelings.
After the Dronacharya awardees collected their prizes, it was the turn of high profile sportsmen like Sehwag, hockey player Gagan Ajit Singh, footballer I.M. Vijayan and chess player K. Sasikiran to receive their Arjuna Awards.
Sehwag, who flew in from Bangalore for the function, said the award was special because it had come within two years of his international debut.
Arjuna awardees Mohammed Ali Qamar (boxing), Anju B. George (athletics) and Inderpal Singh (rowing) and Dronacharya awardees Jaswant Singh (athletics) and H.D. Motivala (yachting) were among those to miss the ceremony due to their sporting engagements.
LIST OF AWARDEES
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: Anjali Bhagwat (shooting), K.M. Beenamol (athletics).
Arjuna: Anju B. George (athletics), Alok Kumar (billiards and snooker), Md Ali Qamar (boxing), K. Sasikiran (chess); I.M. Vijayan (football), Shiv Kapur (golf), Gagan Ajit Singh (hockey), Ram Mehar Singh (kabaddi), Anwar Sultan (shooting), Suma Shirur (shooting), Montu Ghosh (TT), Ravikant Reddy (volleyball), T. Muthu (weightlifting), Palwinder Singh Cheema (wrestling), Nitin Mongia (yachting), Mamta Kharab (hockey), Virender Sehwag (cricket), Saraswati Saha (athletics), Inderpal Singh (rowing), Sujit Mann (wrestling), Ramesh Tikaram (badminton, athletics — handicap category).
Dhyanchand: Ram Kumar (basketball), Dharma Singh Mann (hockey), Charles Cornelius (hockey), Om Prakash (volleyball), Smita Yadav (rowing).
Dronacharya: Renu Kohli (athletics), Jaswant Singh (athletics), M.K. Kaushik (hockey), E. Prasad Rao (kabaddi), H.D. Motivala (yachting).
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy: Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. (PTI)