Manika Batra, Rani Rampal elated to be conferred Khel Ratna

Pair among five Indian sporting stars have been awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the highest sporting honour in India.

By Naveen Peter ·

Indian sporting stars Manika Batra and Rani Rampal believe that the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna brings with it an added responsibility towards the nation as they strive to reach greater heights in their respective disciplines.

Indian table tennis ace Manika Batra and women's hockey team captain Rani Rampal are among five athletes who have been conferred the highest sporting honour of India for the 2020 season, the Union sports ministry confirmed on Friday.

Cricketer Rohit Sharma, wrestling ace Vinesh Phogat, and 2016 Rio Paralympic gold medalist Mariyappan Thangavelu complete the list of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardees for this year.

“It is an amazing feeling when your hard work is rewarded, and I believe this award will serve as a great motivation for me and players like me to keep striving for bigger feats and make the country proud,” Rani Rampal told Hockey India.

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Meanwhile, Batra, who is busy continuing her training in Pune, told IANS: “I see this award as an added responsibility for me to continue performing well and I am looking forward to bringing more laurels to the country.”

Indian table tennis player Manika Batra is among the 5 recipients of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna this year. Photo: ITTF

The ministry also also announced an exhaustive list of other sports honours that include 27 Arjuna award winners, 13 Dronacharya award winners, and 15 Dhyan Chand Awardees for Lifetime Achievement.

While the Arjuna award winners for the year include the likes of Atanu Das (archery), Aditi Ashok (golf), Lovlina Borgohain (boxing), Sandesh Jhingan (football), Shiva Keshavan (Luge) and Akashdeep Singh (hockey), the Dronacharya award list includes prominent names like Jaspal Rana (shooting), Dharmendra Tiwary (archery), OP Dahiya (wrestling), and Shiv Singh (boxing).

Speaking to the Press Trust of India ahead of her round at the ongoing Women’s Open at the Royal Troon, Scotland, Aditi Ashok said that the award is a sign that women’s golf in India is on the right track.

“It obviously means a lot. When you start playing a sport, you play to win tournaments and you never think national honours are part of it. But it feels great to have received that honour,” Aditi said.

“Historically, male golfers have won the award more often so it’s great to be a woman golfer getting this recognition and hopefully it will help grow women’s golf in India,” added the 22-year-old Aditi, who will be the first woman golfer to be conferred the award in its 33-year-long history.

The awards will be presented by the Indian President Ramnath Kovind on August 29, the National Sports Day, at a specially organised virtual function from Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Award winners: Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: Rohit Sharma (Cricket), Shri Mariyappan T (Para Athletics), Manika Batra (Table Tennis), Vinesh Phogat (Wrestling), Rani Rampal (Hockey)

Dronacharya award: Jude Felix (Hockey), Yogesh Malviya (Mallakhamb), Jaspal Rana (Shooting), KK Handoo (Wushu), Gaurav Khanna (Para Badminton)

Dronacharya award (Life-time): Dharmendra Tiwary (Archery), Purushotham Rai (Athletics), Shiv Singh (Boxing), Romesh Pathania (Hockey), KK Hooda (Kabaddi), VB Munishwar (Para Powerlifting), Naresh Kumar (Tennis), OP Dahiya (Wrestling).

Arjuna award: Atanu Das (Archery), Dutee Chand (Athletics), Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (Badminton), Chirag Shetty (Badminton), Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (Basketball), Manish Kaushik (Boxing), Lovlina Borgohain (Boxing), Ishant Sharma (Cricket), Deepti Sharma (Cricket), Ajay Sawant (Equestrian), Sandesh Jhingan (Football), Aditi Ashok (Golf), Akashdeep Singh (Hockey), Deepika Thakur (Hockey), Deepak Hooda (Kabaddi), Sudhakar Kale (Kho-Kho), Dattu Bhokanal (Rowing), Manu Bhaker (Shooting), Saurabh Chaudhary (Shooting), Madhurika Patkar (Table Tennis), Divij Sharan (Tennis), Shiva Keshavan (Winter Sports), Divya Kakran (Wrestling), Rahul Aware (Wrestling), Suyash Jadhav (Para Swimming), Sandeep Chaudhary (Para Athletics), Manish Narwal (Para Shooting).

Dhyan Chand award: Kuldip Singh Bhullar (Athletics), Jincy Philips (Athletics), Pradeep Gandhe (Badminton), Trupti Murgunde (Badminton), N Usha (Boxing), Lakha Singh (Boxing), Sukhvinder Singh Sandhu (Football), Ajit Singh (Hockey), Manpreet Singh (Kabaddi), J Ranjith Kumar (Para Athletics), Satyaprakash Tiwari (Para Badminton), Manjeet Singh (Rowing), Sachin Nag (Swimming), Nandan Bal (Tennis), Netarpal Hooda (Wrestling).