Bajrang Punia receives Khel Ratna from Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju

Ace Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award from Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Thursday.

Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju presents the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award to Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia on Thursday.   -  SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

With the season all but over and the Tokyo Olympics less than 10 months away, Bajrang Punia is in the final stretch of his preparations for the 2020 Games. And the wrestler is determined to make his maiden outing at Tokyo a memorable one.

Punia, who missed out on receiving the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna earlier this year due to his preparations for the World Championships, was handed over the same by Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju here on Thursday. The Asian and Commonwealth champion won bronze at the competition in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, in September to secure an Olympic spot in the 65kg category.

“Any sportsperson feels good after receiving an award and it is the biggest sports award anyone can ask for. My sole focus is on the Olympics now and my responsibility has increased. I have recovered from my injury and have been training on the mat for the last 10-12 days,” Punia said after receiving the award. He was also handed a cheque of Rs 32 lakh 70 thousand.

The awardees: From left - Mohinder Singh Dhillon (Dronacharya Award), Bajrang Punia (Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award) Mohammed Anas (Arjuna Award) and Tejinderpal Singh Toor (Arjuna Award) received their respective awards from the Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Thursday.   -  SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA


Punia, who was also honoured with Padma Shri this year, was ignored for the Khel Ratna last year but was the unanimous choice this time around. He recently got engaged to fellow wrestler Sangeeta Phogat.

Also receiving their respective Arjuna Awards on the occasion were national record holders quartermiler Muhammad Anas and shotputter Tejinderpal Singh Toor while Toor’s coach Mohinder Singh Dhillon was conferred the Dronacharya Award.

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