New Delhi: Tennis star Sania Mirza received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the country's highest sporting honour on Saturday, while 12 others, including ace shooter Jitu Rai and hockey goalkeeper PR Sreejesh were conferred with the Arjuna Award.
President Pranab Mukherjee honours tennis player Sania Mirza with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna 2015 at a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi on Saturday. PIC/PTI
Sania said it was a "huge honour" to be conferred with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the recognition will push her further to do well on the professional tour and next year's Rio Olympics. Amongst Sania's many achievements, what stands out is her women's doubles triumph at Wimbledon with partner Martina Hingis earlier this year, becoming doubles World No 1 and now the Khel Ratna.
Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal with Sania Mirza during the birth anniversary celebrations of hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand (statue garlanded) in New Delhi on Saturday. PIC/PTI
'Simply a huge honour'
"I would not like to pick any and say one was a bigger achievement than the other. It is a simply a huge honour to get this award. It has been an amazing year so far, becoming the world number one and winning the Wimbledon of course," Sania told PTI after receiving the award from President Mukherjee.
A combination of images of sportspersons receiving the Arjuna Award from President Pranab Mukherjee. Anti-clockwise from top second right: Kidambi Srikanth (badminton), Sandeep Kumar (archery), Anup Kumar Yama (roller skating), Abhilasha Shashikant Mhatre (kabaddi), Manjeet Chhillar (kabaddi), Y Sanathoi Devi (Wushu) and Sharath M Gaekwad (para-swimming). Pic/PTI
Dronacharya for Vinod Kumar
This year's ceremony had its fair share of controversy as well since a division bench of the Delhi High Court on Saturday stayed a single-judge order directing the Centre to give the prestigious Dronacharya award to former chief national wrestling coach Vinod Kumar.
The Dronacharya award — conferred on eminent coaches — went to Anoop Kumar Dahiya (wrestling), Harbans Singh (athletics), Swatantar Raj Singh (boxing), Nihar Ameen (swimming) and Naval Singh (para-athletics).
Rashtrapati Bhawan filled with achievers
At the Rashtrapati Bhawan, President Mukherjee also handed out Arjuna Awards to wrestlers Bajrang Singh, shuttler Kidambi Srikanth, archer Sandeep Kumar, 2014 CWG medal-winning gymnast Dipa Karmakar, kabaddi players Manjeet Chillar and Abhilasha Shashikant Mhatre, roller skater Anup Kumar Yama, weightlifter Sivalingam Sathish Kumar, wushu athlete Y Sanathoi Devi and para-swimmer Sharath M Gaekwad. Boxer Mandeep Jangra, women's 400 metre runner MR Poovamma, female wrestler Babita Kumari, cricketer Rohit Sharma (overseas) and rower Swarn Singh Virk (injured) could not be present.