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It's official! Khel Ratna for Sania; Arjuna for 17 other sportspersons

August 14, 2015 21:03 IST

Sania Mirza

Sania Mirza is only the second tennis player to be named for the country’s highest sports honour. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Sania Mirza's was officially named for the coveted Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award on Friday.

The Hyderabadi lady is only the second tennis player to be nominated for the country’s highest sport honour.

The government also named the winners of the 2015 Arjuna awards. The list has 17 sportspersons, including cricketer Rohit Sharma and shooter Jitu Rai.

Gymnast Dipa Karmakar, hockey player P R Sreejesh, wrestlers Bajrang and Babita, athlete M R Poovamma, shuttler K Srikanth and boxer Mandeep Jangra are the others in the list.

"It's a tremendous honour for me to be conferred the Khel Ratna award and I feel humbled with the love and respect showered on me by my country," Sania told PTI from Toronto.

"Representing my country in all corners of the world has been my great privilege for so many years and this recognition of my efforts by the government of India is certain to inspire me to earn more laurels for our country. I would like to wish all my fellow-Indians a happy Independence Day," she said.

Sania, currently ranked world number one in women's doubles, scripted history by becoming the first Indian to win a women's doubles Grand Slam title when she and Martina Hingis triumphed at Wimbledon earlier this year.

She is only the second tennis player after Leander Paes to be named for the top award.

Paes was conferred the honour way back in 1996 after winning a bronze medal at the Atlanta Olympics.

Saina, 28, who has won three mixed doubles Grand Slams in her career, beat competition from squash player Deepika Pallikal, discus thrower Vikas Gowda, track and field star Tintu Luka, rising shuttler P V Sindhu, and hockey captain Sardar Singh for the coveted honour.

The awards will be conferred by President Pranab Mukherjee on August 29, National Sports Day.

The Khel Ratna carries prize-money of Rs 7.5 lakh along with a citation, while the Arjuna awards come with a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh and a citation.

Besides doing well on the professional circuit, Sania also won gold and bronze medals in the mixed and women's doubles categories at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

She won the Arjuna award in 2004 and was favourite for the top award this year. In 2006, she was conferred the Padma Shri -- the country's fourth highest civilian honour.

Sania's mixed doubles trophies had come in the Australian Open (2009), French Open (2012) and US Open (2014).

Rohit Sharma

Rohit Sharma became the highest individual ODI scorer with a knock of 264 against Sri Lanka last year. Photograph: BCCI

Rohit has been India's batting mainstay in ODIs and became the highest individual scorer with a knock of 264 against Sri Lanka last year.

Jitu, on the other hand, has been in splendid form, winning seven international medals in the last one year besides an Olympic quota berth.

Sreejesh was recommended for his outstanding show as India's goalkeeper. He was part of the team that won the Asian Games gold medal last year, which also fetched the side a direct qualification for next year's Olympics.

Dipa has been rewarded for becoming the first Indian woman gymnast to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games, while boxer Mandeep has been recommended for his silver medals in the Asian Championships and the Commonwealth Games.

Srikanth is one of India's top performers on the badminton court, winning three titles this year.

The list of sportspersons recommended for Arjuna awards: P R Sreejesh (hockey), Dipa Karmakar (gymnastics), Jitu Rai (shooting), Sandeep Kumar (archery), Mandeep Jangra (boxing), Babita (wrestling), Bajrang (wrestling), Rohit Sharma (cricket), K Srikanth (badminton), Swarn Singh Virk (rowing), Satish Sivalingam (weightlifting), Yumnam Santhoi Devi

(wushu), Sharath Gaekwad (para-sailing), M R Poovamma (athletics), Manjeet Chhillar (kabaddi), Abhilasha Mhatre (kabaddi), Anup Kumar Yama (rollerskating).