Sodhi conferred Khel Ratna; Kohli gets Arjuna award
Robbed of some sheen due to selection controversies this year, the National Sports Awards were presented to the country's top athletes and coaches with shooter Ronjan Sodhi getting the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna -- the country's highest sporting honour -- while cricketer Virat Kohli was among the Arjuna awardees.
A loud applause greeted the ace shooter as he received the Khel Ratna award from President Pranab Mukherjee in the presence of a host of Ministers, dignitaries and sports celebrities.
But there was some drama just hours before the awards when long-jumper Renjith Maheshwary's Arjuna award was held back after reports emerged of him being a dope-tainted athlete.
Sodhi became the seventh shooter to be honoured with the prestigious award. Interestingly, it is for the third consecutive year that the Khel Ratna award has gone to a shooter.
Image: Ronjan Sodhi
Photographs: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Sodhi first Indian to win two back-to-back WC gold medals
Sodhi, who had a disastrous outing at the London Olympics last year, is a former world number one. He was a double trap gold-medallist at last year's Asian Games, besides being a silver-medallist at the Commonwealth Games.
Sodhi, who was the first Indian to win two back-to-back World Cup gold medals, collected the top honour which comprises a medal, citation and a cash prize of Rs 7.5 lakh each.
Image: Ronjan Sodhi
Photographs: Lars Baron/Getty Images
Kohli receives Arjuna award
Another star attraction at the ceremony was cricketer Kohli, who was given a thunderous applause while receiving the Arjuna award.
However, rising badminton player P V Sindhu, who became the first Indian woman shuttler to clinch a bronze medal at the World Championships, could not be present at the function personally to take the award.
Sindhu, this year's Arjuna awardees list featured a number of female sportspersons. World Championship bronze medallist Kavita Chahal, veteran squash player Joshna Chinappa, former hockey captain Saba Anjum, paddler Mouma Das, wrestler Neha Rathi and shooter Rajkumari Rathore and archer
Chekrovolu Swuro, who was part of the silver medal-winning team in the 2011 World Cup.
Image: Virat Kohli
Photographs: Getty Images
Bhullar awarded with Arjuna award
Rising golfer Gaganjeet Bhullar, chess player Abhijeet Gupta, billiards and snooker star Rupesh Shah, wrestler Dharmender Dalal and para-athlete Amit Kumar Saroha were also conferred the Arjuna award.
The choices were made by a selection committee headed by three-time billiards world champion Michael Ferreira and comprised noted sportspersons like Limba Ram, V Devarajan, Zafar Iqbal, Vandana Rao, Anjali Bhagwat, Indu Puri, Shakti Singh, Ravi Shastri, Kripa Shankar Patel and Surinder Khanna besides a few other bureaucrats.
Dronacharya Award, the top recognition for coaches in the country, was conferred on five including long-serving archery coach Purnima Mahato and women's hockey coach Narendra Singh Saini, wrestling coach Raj Singh, athletics coach K P Thomas and boxing coach Mahavir Singh.
Image: Gaganjeet Bhullar
Photographs: Ian Walton/Getty Images
Poornima Mahato conferred with Dronacharya award
Mahato started coaching in 1994 and among her wards is former world number one and Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Deepika Kumari.
Saini, who is employed with the Sports Authority of India, has been in coaching for 17 years and four girls trained by him are in the senior national team while 10 are in the junior national squad.
Thomas, who is based in Kerala, has Olympian Anju Bobby George, sprinter Jincy Philips, and 800m double Asian Games gold-medallist Shiny Wilson among his long list of wards. A little-known Mahavir Singh's name was endorsed by London Olympics bronze-medallist and five-time world champion woman boxer M C Mary Kom.
Raj Singh is the Wrestling Federation of India Secretary General and has been a coach for nearly four decades.
The Arjuna and Dronacharya awardees got statuettes, citations and cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each.
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: Ronjan Sodhi
Arjuna Award: Chekrovolu Swuro (Archery), P V Sindhu (Badminton), Kavita Chahal (Boxing), Rupesh Shah (Billiards & Snooker), Virat Kohli (Cricket), Abhijeet Gupta (Chess), Gagan Jeet Bhullar (Golf), Saba Anjum (Hockey), Rajkumari Rathore (Shooting), Joshna Chinnappa (Squash), Mouma Das (Table Tennis), Neha Rathi (Wrestling), Dharmender Dalal (Wrestling), Amit Kumar Saroha (Para Athletics).
Dronacharya Awards: Poornima Mahato (Archery), Mahavir Singh (Boxing), Narinder Singh Saini (Hockey), K P Thomas (Athletics), Raj Singh (Wrestling).
Dhyan Chand Awards: Mary D'souza Sequeira (Athletics), Syed Ali (Hockey), Anil Mann (Wrestling), Girraj Singh (Para Sports).
Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar: Community Sports Identification and Nurturing of Budding Young Talent (Dr U K Mishra, Founder and President, National Sports Academy, Allahabad), Financial Support for Sports Excellence (Services Sports Control Board), Establishment and Management of Sports Academies of Excellence (Pullela Gopichand Academy of Badminton, Hyderabad), Employment of Sportspersons and sports welfare measures (Petroleum Sports Promotion Board).
Image: Purnima Mahato and Deepika Kumari
Photographs: Harish Kotian/Rediff.com