Khel Ratna award for Sandhu

Sandhu becomes the fourth shooter to earn the honour after Abhinav Bindra, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Anjali Bhagwat.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Manavjit Singh Sandhu won the gold medal in trap at the 49th World Championships in Zagreb, Croatia, in July 2006, a feat which made him India’s second world champion in shooting. He also won the bronze medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Gamesin Melbourne.

Sandhu becomes the fourth shooter

Manavjit Singh Sandhu, who set the shooting ranges ablaze with his record breaking feats in 2006, was selected for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, the country’s highest sporting honour.

The 30-year-old shooter pipped Indian cricket captain Rahul Dravid and star golfer Jeev Milkha Singh for the award which was officially announced by the Government.

For the third year running, no Indian male cricketer was in the list of awardees with spinner Harbhajan Singh being the last Arjuna awardee in 2003.

Ace archer Jayanta Talukdar, athlete K. M. Binu, chess player P. Harikrishna, shuttler Chetan Anand, woman cricketer Anjum Chopra and woman hockey player Jyoti Sunita Kullu were among the 14 selected for Arjuna Awards 2006.

Sandhu won the gold medal in trap event at the 49th World Championships in Zagreb, Croatia, in July 2006, a feat which made him India’s second world champion in shooting. He also won the bronze medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

The Punjab marksman becomes the fourth shooter to bag the prestigious honour after Abhinav Bindra, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Anjali Bhagwat.

The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award comprises a cash award of Rs 5 lakh, a scroll of honour and a medal while the Arjuna Award carries a cash award of Rs 3 lakh, a statuette and a scroll of honour. The Dhyan Chand and Dronacharya Awards also carry cash award of Rs 3 lakh each.

The awards will be given away by President Pratibha Patil at a function in the Rashtrapati Bhawan on August 29.

The list of awardees was finalised by a 15-member committee headed by former Indian captain Kapil Dev and included renowned sports personalities like K. Malleswari, P. T. Usha and Anjali Bhagwat.

Former All England champion Prakash Padukone headed another 15-member committee, constituted to choose winners of Dronacharya award for coaches.

Apart from Dravid and Jeev, Koneru Humpy (chess), M. C. Marykom (boxing), Gagan Narang and Samresh Jung (both shooters), Mahesh Bhupathi (tennis) were among the other nominees for the prestigious Khel Ratna award.

It was the second time that Dravid missed out on the award after being nominated last year.

Ignored for three years, athlete Binu was finally chosen for the Arjuna Award. The Kerala athlete won the 800m silver in Busan and made the 400m semifinals at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

The list of awardees:

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: Manavjit Singh Sandhu

Arjuna Awards: P. Harikrishna (chess), K. M. Binu (athletics), Vijender (boxing), Anjum Chopra (women’s cricket), Jyoti Sunita Kullu (women’s hockey), Chetan Anand (badminton), Jayanta Talukdar (archery), Navneet Gautam (ka baddi), Vijay Kumar (shooting), Saurav Ghosal (squash), Subhajit Saha (table tennis), Geeta Rani (women’s weightlifting), Geetika Jhakar (women’s wrestling) and Rohit Bhakaar (sport for physically challenged).

Dhyan Chand Awards: Varinder Singh (hockey), Shamsher Singh (kabaddi), Rajendra Singh (wrestling).

Dronacharya Awards: R. D. Singh (athletics, paralympic), Damodaran Chandralal (boxing), Koneru Ashok (chess).

* * * Rohan & Aisam revel

Indian tennis player Rohan Bopanna and his Pakistani partner Aisam-ul-Haq have completed a hat-trick of doubles titles after winning the Castilla y Leon ATP Super Challenger in Segovia, Spain.

The Asian pair beat Michel Kratochvil of Switzerland and Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 7-6 (8), 6-3 in the final of the $125,000 tournament.

The third-seeded pair had earlier won doubles titles at Manchester and Nottingham, England recently. The duo had first won a Challenger doubles title together in 2003 at Denver, US.

The win brings Aisam’s doubles ranking just inside the 130-mark, and a successful past couple of months have left his singles ranking just outside the top 150, the Dawn reported. The 27-year-old Bopanna, who has six Challenger doubles titles to his name, has broken into the top-100, and is at 92.

* * * Atapattu released

Sri Lanka’s cricket governing body released former Lankan cricket captain Marvan Atapattu from his contract, effectively ending his career with the national team. “We decided at the committee meeting to release Marvan Atapa ttu from his contract from October 1,” said Kangadaran Mathivanan, secretary of the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) to AFP. Atapattu sent a letter to the SLC requesting a release from his contract.

The SLC decision appears to signal the end of the road for Atapattu, whose career began in 1990. Atapattu, one of the most elegant right-handed opening batsmen in contemporary cricket, scored 5,330 runs in 88 Tests and 8,529 runs in One-Day Internationals. He is one of just six players with an ’A’-graded contract. His contract with SLC runs till March 2008 and he is currently playing for the Lashings World XI in England.