New Delhi, Nov 30: In a historic moment for Indian table tennis, legendary paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal was on Wednesday (November 30) bestowed with the prestigious Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna, the country's highest sporting honour, by President Droupadi Murmu in a glittering National Sports Awards ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.
He is the second table tennis player after Manika Batra to be conferred with the Khel Ratna.
While Sharath is the lone Khel Ratna award recipient, 25 sportspersons, including shuttlers Lakshya Sen, HS Prannoy, woman boxer Nikhat Zareen, track and field athletes Eldhose Paul and Avinash Sable, were conferred with the Arjuna Award.
The creme de la creme of Indian sports were recognised for their achievements in the past few years at a specially organised ceremony. The event is traditionally held every year to commemorate the birth anniversary of hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand on August 29. But last year also, the event was held on another date.
The star attraction of the ceremony was Sharath, who received his Khel Ratna award amid thunderous applause from the select dignitaries present at the Durbar Hall. The Khel Ratna is given for the spectacular and most outstanding performances by a sportsperson over a period of the previous four years.
It carries a cash prize of Rs 25 lakh, a medal and a scroll of honour. The Arjuna award carries a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh, a bronze statue and a scroll of honour. The 40-year-old Sharath had returned from Birmingham Commonwealth Games as the most-decorated Indian athlete with four medals. Besides a yellow metal in the mixed doubles, Sharath also pocketed his singles gold after 16 years, the first having won at the 2006 Melbourne CWG.
The lanky paddler has claimed a whopping 13 medals from the CWG overall. He also won two bronze medals at the 2018 Asian Games, and is now in search of an elusive Olympic glory at the 2024 Paris Games.
While Sharath took away the spotlight, the star attractions among Arjuna awardees were shuttler Sen, world champion boxer Zareen, boxer Amit Panghal and triple jumper Eldhose Paul, all gold medallists at Birmingham Games.
The Khel Ratna was the first award to given by the President, followed by the Dronacharya award in the lifetime category, won by Rohit Sharma's coach Dinesh Jawahar Lad, football coach Bimal Prafulla Ghosh and wrestling mentor Raj Singh.
The Dronacharya Award is the regular category were handed to Jiwanjot Singh Teja (archery), Mohammad Ali Qamar (boxing), Suma Siddharth Shirur (para shooting) and Sujeet Maan (wrestling).
Discus thrower Seema Punia was the first to receive the Arjuna award from the President, followed by Paul, Sable, Sen, Prannoy and Panghal, among others.
Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime Achievement was won by Ashwini Akkunji C (athletics), Dharamvir Singh (hockey), BC Suresh (kabaddi) and Nir Bahadur Gurung (para athletics).
Sreeja, who partnered with Sharath to win the mixed doubles gold in Birmingham, described the moment as unforgettable. "It is an honour for me to be bestowed with the Arjuna award. Recognition of this kind is very motivating for a young athlete like me, and I want to thank my parents, Somnath Sir, and all my coaches and trainers," she said.
The ceremony was also attended by sports minister Anurag Thakur along with a host of other dignitaries, including his deputy Nisith Pramanik.
Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award 2022: Achanta Sharath Kamal.
Arjuna Awards for outstanding performance in Sports and Games 2022: Seema Punia (Athletics), Eldhose Paul (Athletics), Avinash Mukund Sable (Athletics), Lakshya Sen (Badminton), HS Prannoy (Badminton), Amit (Boxing), Nikhat Zareen (Boxing), Bhakti Pradip Kulkarni (Chess), R Praggnanandhaa (Chess), Deep Grace Ekka (Hockey), Shushila Devi (Judo), Sakshi Kumari (Kabaddi), Nayan Moni Saikia (Lawn Bowl), Sagar Kailas Ovhalkar (Mallakhamb), Elavenil Valarivan (Shooting), Omprakash Mitharval (Shooting), Sreeja Akula (Table Tennis), Vikas Thakur (Weightlifting), Anshu (Wrestling), Sarita (Wrestling), Parveen (Wushu), Manasi Girishchandra Joshi (Para Badminton), Tarun Dhillon (Para Badminton), Swapnil Sanjay Patil (Para Swimming), Jerlin Anika J (Deaf Badminton).
Dronacharya Award for outstanding coaches in Sports and Games 2022 Regular Category: Jiwanjot Singh Teja (Archery), Mohammad Ali Qamar (Boxing), Suma Siddharth Shirur (Para Shooting), Sujeet Maan (Wrestling).
Lifetime Category: Dinesh Jawahar Lad (Cricket), Bimal Prafulla Ghosh (Football), Raj Singh (Wrestling).
Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime Achievement in Sports and Games 2022: Ashwini Akkunji C (Athletics), Dharamvir Singh (Hockey), BC Suresh (Kabaddi), Nir Bahadur Gurung (Para Athletics).
Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar 2022: TransStadia Enterprises Private Limited, Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, Ladakh Ski & Snowboard Association.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (MAKA) Trophy 2022: Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.
Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Awards: Naina Dhakad (Land Adventure), Shubham Dhananjay Vanmali (Water Adventure), Group Captain Kunwar Bhawani Singh Samyal (Life Time Achievement).
(With PTI inputs)