Krishna Poonia finally gets to meet Sports Minister

New Delhi: Top woman discus thrower Krishna Poonia was finally able to meet Jitendra Singh after her day-long struggle to meet him and apprised the Sports Minister of her grievance at being overlooked for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.

Poonia, who was accompanied by her husband-cum-coach Virender Poonia, met the minister at his official residence in the evening after failing to get an audience during the entire day.

The meeting lasted for around 15 minutes and Poonia said the minister gave her a patient hearing.

"The minister said he will seek the file from the concerned official on Friday and will look into the matter. He said if any wrong has been done (during the selection panel meeting), he will look into it and rectify it," Poonia told PTI.

"It was a cordial meeting and I was given the understanding that justice would be done to me. So, we are hopeful for a positive outcome," she added.

Poonia informed when she brought up the matter of sharing the Khel Ratna with trap shooter Ronjan Sodhi, the minister assured her of looking into the matter.

"When I brought up the matter of sharing the award, the minister gave me a patient hearing and said he will promptly look into my case."

Earlier in the day, Poonia failed to meet the minister at his office to express her displeasure over the issue. She first visited the Sports Ministry but since Singh was not available there, she went to the Defence Ministry but to no avail.

The recommendation of Sodhi for the Khel Ratna Award yesterday sparked off a controversy with some members of the selection panel raising questions about the process of his selection.

It was learnt that Sodhi`s name was not there when the majority of members decided to vote for the Khel Ratna awardee but brought back later for consideration.

A selection panel member said that Poonia and London Paralympics silver medallist H N Girisha were shortlisted for voting by 11 out of 12 selection panel members and Sodhi`s name was not considered initially.

Poonia, who has also submitted a letter to the Sports Ministry, said she was ready to share the honour with Sodhi.

"I have no issue if Ronjan Sodhi is recommended for Khel Ratna but I should also be considered for the award. There were earlier instances where the award was given to more than one person. In any case, I am more deserving than him," said the Commonwealth Games gold-medallist.

"I am ready to share the award with Sodhi," she added.

Poonia also criticised the procedure that was followed at the selection committee meeting yesterday.

"Injustice has been done to me yesterday because the selection panel had already voted for my recommendation with a 8-3 verdict in my favour in the contest with H N Girisha, and the committee members had already started discussions for Arjuna awardees.

"Then how can a person walk in and suddenly bring back back another sportsperson`s name who was already out of contention?," asked Poonia.

A member of the selection panel had said that decision to bring Sodhi`s name back into contention was taken after one member, a former shooter, came in late for the meeting and Girisha`s name was removed and there was voting between Sodhi and Poonia.

Meanwhile, two-time Olympic medal winning wrestler Sushil Kumar also threw his weight behind Poonia, saying that the "government should confer the Khel Ratna award on two of our best athletes, Poonia and Sodhi".

Sushil Kumar, incidentally had also gone to the Sports Ministry today to meet with the Sports Secretary.

A disappointed Girisha has also pleaded with the Sports Minister to consider his name for the Khel Ratna award stating that if in case it is not possible to honour him this year, at least he be treated as a special case and conferred with Arjuna award.

In a letter written to the Sports Minister, Girisha has insisted that he deserved the highest honour.

"I would like to ask the Sports Minister to consider my name for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award this year. But in case, it is too late now, at least I would urge him to confer me with Arjuna award and consider my case for next year`s Khel Ratna," Girisha told PTI.

Girisha gave the example of shooter Vijay Kumar, who was conferred with Khel Ratna last year as a special case after he bagged silver at the London Olympics.

The para-athlete pointed out that even Vijay`s name was not recommended initially but was considered later after looking at his achievement in London.

Girisha is coming to the Capital on Friday to meet Jitendra Singh.

"I am also an achiever and I also deserve recognition from the Government. I should be considered for Khel Ratna," said Girisha.