The National Award committee for India’s highest sporting honour, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, named fives athletes for this year’s award. Indian cricket’s star player Rohit Sharma, dynamic wrestler Vinesh Phogat, table tennis sensation Manika Batra, 2016 Rio Paralympics Gold Medallist Mariyappan Thangavelu and Indian Women’s Hockey Team Captain, Rani Rampal, are the athletes that are recommended for the prestigious award this year. The nominations for the award were asked to be sent via e-mails because of the lockdown and pandemic situation.
Rohit Sharma had a pretty excellent 2019-20 year on the field. Other than successfully excelling in his game and opening for India in all the formats, he also led his IPL team, Mumbai Indians to win the fourth title in the tournament.
In the year 2019, while opening the batting for the first time, Rohit has scored 556 runs with an average of 92.66 in five test matches and scored 1490 ODI runs at an average of 57.30. He also made a record of scoring five centuries at a single World Cup. Rohit, who was nominated by BCCI in May, was selected by the award committee’s member and former cricketer Virendra Sehwag and former men’s hockey team Captain Sardar Singh. While he was the only cricketer recommended by the committee this year, Rohit Sharma is also only the fourth cricketer after Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, and Virat Kohli to be selected for the honour.
Ace wrestler Vinesh Phogat, was recommended for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, by the Wrestling Federation of India for the second consecutive time, as Bajrang Punia ended up winning last year. Vinesh became the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games. She was also the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at Commonwealth Games. Because of her brilliant performance over the past two years and also with her bronze medal win at the 2019 Wrestling World Championship, Vinesh sealed her qualification in the first attempt for the Tokyo Olympics 2020, which has now been postponed to next year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. She started her 2020 with a gold medal win at Rome Ranking series and later also won a bronze at the 2020 Asian Championship held in New Delhi. Currently, Vinesh Phogat holds the third spot in the world rankings in the 53kg category.
Other than these two players nominations, table tennis player Manika Batra was nominated after her famous double gold win in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and also her triple gold medals win in the 2016 Asian Games. Mariyappan Thangavelu became the first Indian to win a Paralympic gold medal in the year 2004. He also represented India in the High Jump event at the 2016 Paralympics held in Rio de Janeiro and also won a bronze medal in the Men’s High Jump event at World Para Athletics in November 2019. Indian women’s hockey team Captain, Rani Rampal led her team’s qualification campaign to Tokyo Olympics. She is also the only Indian to be named as the World Games Athlete of the Year and has been the recipient of the Arjuna Award (2016) and Padma Shri (2020).
Last year’s Khel Ratna was won by Paralympian Deepa Malik and wrestler Bajrang Punia. Awards like these are more than just an honour. They are an encouragement that works in favour of true talent and helps them bring out their best while making their country proud. They give recognition to the gems of the nation and motivate them to give their best performances going forward.
Many congratulations to all the nominees!