|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Gagan Ajit steals limelight at awards function
August 29, 2003 18:20 IST
After a bitter controversy, the nation's highest sporting honours were conferred on 33 sportspersons, including cricketer Virender Sehwag and shooter Anjali Bhagwat, at a glittering function Delhi on Friday.
President A P J Abdul Kalam presented the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, and the Arjuna, Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand Awards for 2002 at the ceremonial function at Rashtrapati Bhawan, bringing to an end yet another chapter of controversy-ridden awards.
But the bitterness and the wranglings were set aside once the ceremony unfolded with the customary national anthem.
Khel Ratna winners -- shooter Anjali Bhagwat and athlete K M Beenamol, attired in lemon-yellow silk sarees and maroon blazers, were the first to walk up to the President to collect a medal, scroll of honour and trophy amidst thunderous applause.
The cash prize of Rs 500,000 was split between Anjali and Beenamol but the duo said there are no hard feelings between them.
The newly-formed Arjuna Awards committee triggered off a controversy by nominating more sportspersons for the awards than stipulated in the government guidelines. It made matters worse by leaking the provisional list to the media.
The government added its bit to the drama by declining to accept the list and asking the committee to cut down the nominations. Even as the controversy raged over the government's stand, the Sports Ministry eventually decided to accept all the recommendations as a one-time exception.
After the Dronacharya awardees collected their prizes, it was the turn of high profile sportsmen, like cricketer Virender Sehwag, hockey player Gagan Ajit Singh, footballer I M Vijayan and chess player Krishnan Sasikiran, to take centrestage and receive their Arjuna awards.
Surprisingly, Gagan Ajit Singh, who returned home only on Tuesday after the Champions Trophy, drew the maximum applause.
The young Gagan Ajit was the most sought after player of the day, reflecting the increasing popularity of the game on the whole.
In his moment of glory, Gagan Ajit did not forget to mention his father and uncle, crediting them for his achievements so far.
"Hockey runs in our blood. My father and uncle have been a great source of inspiration for me."
Sehwag, who especially flew in from Bangalore for the function, said the award is all the more special for him because it came within just two years of his international debut.
"I may have got a lot of awards but this is a national award and it has special significance. I hope it inspires me to greater heights," the 24-year-old batsman said.
But there were a few who missed out on this grand occasion on account of their sporting engagements.
Arjuna awardees Mohammad Ali Qamar (boxing), Anju B George (athletics) and Inder Pal Singh (rowing) could not make it to the function while Dronacharya awardees Jaswant Singh and H D Motivala were also absent.
After the presentation, all the awardees posed for group photographs with the President, who mingled freely with the sportspersons.
List of awardees:
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: Anjali Bhagwat (shooting), K M Beenamol (athletics).
Arjuna awards: Anju B George (athletics), Alok Kumar (billiards and snooker), Mohammad Ali Qamar (boxing), Krishnan Sasikiran (chess) I M Vijayan (football), Shiv Kapur (golf), Gagan Ajit Singh (hockey-men), 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-woman), Virender Sehwag (cricket), Saraswati Saha (athletics), Inderpal Singh (rowing), Sujit Mann (wrestling), Ramesh Tikaram (badminton and athletics -- handicap category).
Dhyan Chand awards: Ram Kumar (basketball), Dharma Singh Mann (hockey), Charles Cornelius (hockey), Om Prakash (volleyball), Smita Yadav (rowing).
Dronacharya awards: 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 Universisty, Amritsar.