The government officially announced the names of sportspersons who will be conferred the Arjuna, Dhyan Chand and Dronacharya awards for the year 2011 on Thursday, though the list of recipients was out last month.
Ace Indian shooter Gagan Narang, who won four gold medals at last year's Commonwealth Games [ Images ], will receive the country's highest sporting honour -- the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna -- from the President at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The 28-year-old rifle shooter, who was the first Indian marksman to qualify for next year's London [ Images ] Olympics [ Images ] with a bronze in the World Championships last year, was disgruntled at being "ignored" for the award last year.
Nineteen sportspersons -- Zaheer Khan [ Images ] (Cricket), Rahul Banerjee (Archery), Preeja Sreedharan (Athletics), Vikas Gowda (Athletics), Jwala Gutta [ Images ] (Badminton), Suranjoy Singh (Boxing), Sunil Chhetri (Football), Rajpal Singh (Hockey), Virdhawal Khade [ Images ] (Swimming), Tejaswini Sawant [ Images ] (Shooting), Ashish Kumar (Gymnastics), Somdev Devvarman [ Images ] (Tennis), Ravinder Singh (Wrestling), Ravi Kumar (Weightlifting), Sandhya Rani (Wushu), Prasanta Karmakar (Swimming), Sanjay Kumar (Volleyball), Rakesh Kumar (Kabaddi) and Tejaswini (Kabaddi) will be conferred the Arjuna award.
Normally not more than 15 Arjuna awards are given in a calendar year, but the scheme of Arjuna awards also provides that keeping in view the performance of Indian sportspersons in the Commonwealth, Asian Games and Olympic Games [ Images ] during a particular year, the awards exceeding 15 in number may be allowed with proper justification and approval of the Sports Ministry.
The Committee noted that the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games were held in 2010, wherein the performance of Indian sportspersons was exceptional. Keeping this factor in view, the committee recommended names of 19 sportspersons for the Arjuna award.
Thirty-two-year-old India [ Images ] pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who has taken 271 Test wickets at an average of 31.94, besides 273 One-day wickets at an average of 28.84, is the first male cricketer to be selected for the Arjuna award after Gautam Gambhir [ Images ] in 2009.
Indian football striker Sunil Chettri and rising tennis star Somdev Devvarman, who struck a golden double last year by finishing on top in both the Commonwealth and Asian Games singles are also named for the honour.
Flyweight boxer Suranjoy Singh, who clinched an astonishing seven back-to-back gold medals last year, including the Commonwealth Games gold, also made it to the final list.
Discus thrower Vikas Gowda, who won a bronze medal at the Asian Games last year, and long-distance runner Preeja Sreedharan, an Asian Games gold-medallist, are the track and field athletes who made the cut.
Among shooters, India's first woman World champion Tejaswini Sawant, who clinched top honours in the 50m rifle prone event, figures in the list.
Ashish Kumar, the first Indian gymnast to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games, also made it to the list. He clinched a silver in the men's vault and bronze in the men's floor events of the Delhi [ Images ] Games.
Wushu player Sandhya Rani will also be feted for her Asian Games silver with the Arjuna award, while archer Rahul Banerjee, who clinched the men's recurve gold in the Commonwealth Games last year, will also be honoured.