Asian and Commonwealth Games champion wrestler Bajrang Punia and Paralympics silver medallist Deepa Malik were awarded the country's highest sporting honour -- the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award -- on the National Sports Day awards ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Thursday.
While Malik took the award, Punia had to skip the awards ceremony as he is training in Russia for the upcoming World championships. Bajrang will receive the award from Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju after he returns from the World championships.
The committee also picked 19 sportspersons for the Arjuna Award, including shuttler B. Sai Praneeth, who recently settled for bronze at the BWF World Championships ending India's 36-year wait for a medal in the men's section of the meet; cricketers Ravindra Jadeja and Poonam Yadav, track and field stars Tejinder Pal Singh Toor, Mohammed Anas, and Swapna Barman, footballer Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, hockey player Chinglensana Singh Kangujam and shooter Anjum Moudgil.
Moudgil also missed the award ceremony as she's part of the Indian contingent participating in the ISSF's fourth and final World Cup Rifle/Pistol stage in Rio De Janerio, which got underway on Wednesday. Moudgil, who has been selected for the Arjuna award, has already bagged a quota place for Tokyo Olympics in her event.
The panel also nominated three names for the Dronacharya Award, which included former badminton star Vimal Kumar, Sandeep Gupta (table tennis), Mohinder Singh Dhillon (athletics). Also Sanjay Bhardwaj (cricket), Rambir Singh Khokar (kabaddi) and Mezban Patel (hockey) were awarded with the Dronacharya Award (lifetime category).
India all-rounder Jadeja also could not be there as he is in West Indies with the team.
Mohammad Anas, 400m specialist, also missed as he is competing at the ongoing 59th National Inter-state senior athletics championship in Lucknow. Anas, who has already qualified in 400m event for the upcoming World Championships in Doha, will be trying to help 4x400m relay squad book tickets to Doha on Thursday.
Here is the list of names:
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award: Bajrang Punia, Deepa Malik
Dronacharya Award: Vimal Kumar (badminton), Sandeep Gupta (table tennis), Mohinder Singh Dhillon (athletics)
Dronacharya Award (Life-time category): Merzban Patel (hockey), Rambir Singh Khokhar (kabaddi), Sanjay Bhardwaj (cricket)
Arjuna Award: Tajinderpal Singh Toor (Athletics), Mohammad Anas Yahiya (Athletics), S. Bhaskaran (Body buidling), Sonia Lather (Boxing), Ravindra Jadeja (cricket), Chinglensana Singh Kangujam (Hockey), Ajay Thakur (Kabaddi), Gaurav Singh Gill (Motor sports), Pramod Bhagat (para badminton), Anjum Moudgil (shooting), Harmeet Rajul Desai (table tennis), Pooja Dhanda (wrestling), Fouaad Mirza (equestrian), Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (football), Poonam Yadav (cricket), Swapna Barman (Athletics), Sundar Singh Gurjar (Para sports, athletics), Bhamidpati Sai Praneeth (badminton), Simran Shergill (polo)
Dhyanchand Award: Manuel Fredricks (Hockey), Arup Basak (Table tennis), Manoj Kumar (Wrestling), Nitten Kirtane (Tennis), C. Lalremsanga (Archery)
Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Awards: Aparna Kumar (Land Adventure), Late Shri Dipankar Ghosh (Land Adventure), Manikandan K (Land Adventure), Prabhat Raju Koli (Water Adventure), RameshwerJangra (Air Adventure).