New Delhi, Aug 29 (IANS): President Pratibha Patil conferred the National Sports Awards at a glittering ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan here Sunday.
Ace Indian shuttler and World no.2 Saina Nehwal was conferred with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the country’s highest sports award. She, however, was not present to recieve it as she was competing at the World Badminton Championships in Paris, where she lost in the quarterfinals Friday. She had written a letter intimating her unavialibaility for the ceremony.
Saina has been in great form and won three back-to-back tournaments, including two Super Series titles this year. The 20-year-old from Hyderabad won the Indian Open Grand Prix, the Singapore Open and the Indonesian Open. She jumped to World No.2 in the rankings after her good performance.
Saina won the Arjun Award and Padma Shri last year after becoming the first Indian girl to reach the singles quarterfinals at the Olympics in Beijing.
The historic Ashok Hall, in all its grandeur, had 14 sportspersons receive the Arjuna Award while five coaches were bestowed with the Dronacharya award.
For those who were present in the occasion, it was the moment of a lifetime as they received the award from the president.
"It is every sportsperson's dream," said hockey player Sandeep Singh, adding: "I am very happy to receive this award. This will motivate me to do better for India."
Deepak Mondal, who is the first footballer to win the Arjuna Award after eight years, was elated.
"It is after eight years that a footballer got this award and I am sure that more footballers will get from next year," said Deepak, who became a proud father when the Indian team was in Portugal. "This is a double delight for me. I did not see the face of my child when he was born. Now my teammates are telling to name him Arjun."
Boxer Dinesh Singh felt that it will be a big confidence booster ahead of Commonwealth Games.
"It has come at the right time for me. We are preparing for the Commonwealth Games and we want to give our best in front of home crowd. This award will give a huge lift to my confidence," he said.
Wrestler Rajiv Tomar said that the award means that he will have more responsility on his shoulders when he turns out for India again.
"This is a recognition that adds more responsibility. It will certainly help me go ahead in life," he said.
In cricket, fast bowler Jhulan Goswami, who was adjudged the International Cricket Council (ICC) Women’s Player of the Year award in 2007, got the Arjuna Award.
Tata Steel Ltd was honoured with the ‘Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar’ for the second consecutive year.
H.M.Nerurkar, Managing Director, Tata Steel Ltd, and Raghunath Pandey, President of Tata Workers’ Union, were present to receive the award.
Arjuna Awardees: Krishna Punia (athletics), Joseph Abraham (athletics), Dinesh Kumar (boxing), Parimarjan Negi (chess), Jhulan Goswami (cricket), Deepak Mondal (football), Rajiv Tomar (wrestling), Sandeep Singh (hockey), Jasjit Kaur (hockey), Jajseer Singh (paralympics), Dinesh (kabaddi), Kapil Dev (volleyball), Rehan Poncha (swimming), Sanjeev Rajput (shooting)
Dronacharya Awardees: A.K. Bansal (hockey), N. Ibomcha Singh (Boxing), Subhash Aggarwal (billiards and snooker), A.K. Kutty (lifetime, athletics), Captain Chand Roop (lifetime, wrestling).
Dhyan Chand Awardees: Satish Pillai (Athletics), Kuldeep Singh (Wrestling), Anita Chanu (Weightlifting).