Jitu Rai, Dipa Karmakar recommended for Khel Ratna

NRAI has confirmed that Jitu Rai's name has been recommended for the prestigious award and speculation is rife that gymnast Dipa Karmakar too has been recommended for her performance in the Rio Olympics.

Speculation is rife that Dipa Karmakar's name has also been recommended for the prestigious award.   -  Shanker Chakravarthy

Asian Games gold medallist Jitu Rai has been recommended for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award for his exploits in pistol shooting in the last two years although he couldn’t win a medal in the Rio Olympics.

“Yes, we have recommended Jitu’s name for Khel Ratna award,” National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) secretary Rajiv Bhatia said.

NRAI has also recommended woman rifle shooter Apurvi Chandela and men rifle shooters Gurpreet Singh and PN Prakash for the Arjuna Awards, according to Bhatia.

READ: >Shiva Thapa lone boxer to be selected for Arjuna award

The 29-year-old Rai, ranked third in the world in the men’s 10m air pistol, was one of two Indian shooters to make the final of their respective events in Rio, the other being Abhinav Bindra.

Rai entered the final of the men’s 10m air pistol before ending up eighth but could not advance to the same stage in the 50m pistol, his pet event, in the Rio Games. Khel Ratna award is the country’s highest sporting honour.

This year Rai has won the silver medal in the 10m air pistol event at the ISSF World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan and the gold medal at the ISSF World Cup in Bangkok in 50m pistol.

Rai was the first shooter to qualify for the Rio Games after winning a silver medal at the 51st Shooting World Championships in Spain in 2014. If the recommendation is approved, the shooter would receive the award from President Pranab Mukherjee on National Sports Day falling on August 29.

Seven shooters, including India’s lone individual Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra, have so far bagged the Khel Ratna with the last recipient, Ronjan Sodhi, receiving it in 2012-13. Woman tennis star Sania Mirza is the last recipient of the award, in 2015.

Dipa Karmakar in fray too?

Speculation is rife that gymnast Dipa Karmakar is to be recommended for the Rajiv Khel Ratna Award after her stupendous performance in the ongoing Rio Olympics although the deadline for sending in the recommendation to the Sports Ministry was over.

The 23-year-old Tripura-born gymnast became an overnight sensation after she finished fourth in the women’s vault final on August 14, missing the the bronze by a mere 0.150 points. Officials of the Sports Ministry and Sports Authority of India, however, did not confirm whether Dipa has already been recommended for the highest sports honour or not.

And to add to the confusion Dipa’s coach Biseshwar Nandi says he has also no clue in this regard. “I am hearing this (Dipa being recommended for Khel Ratna) for the first time. I have no clue,” Nandi told PTI in Rio when contacted.

It is also not clear who has recommended her name for the Khel Ratna Award.

State governments, the Indian Olympic Association, the concerned National Sports Federation, previous Khel Ratna Awardees and Director General of Sports Authority of India can recommend names for Khel Ratna.

The Sports Minstry too has the discretionary power to do so.

SAI’s Director General Injeti Srinivas could not be reached as he is on his way returning from Rio where he had gone to watch Indians’ performance.

To add to the confusion, there is no recognised NSF in case of gymnastics due to two warring factions.

The deadline for submission of applications was April 29 but the Sports Ministry can recommend any sportsperson for the prestigious award even after the end of the deadline for submission of the names of candidates.

Belonging to a humble family background in Agartala, Dipa made her way through the top level of her sport with little support and non-existent training facilities which made her Olympics heroics all the more commenadable.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that Dipa’s coach Biseshwar Nandi has been recommended for the Dronacharya Award and he is likely to get the nod after his ward’s sensational performance in Rio.

“Nandi’s application was sent to the Ministry before the deadline ended and before the commencement of the Olympic Games. After Dipa’s Olympics performance, he should get the award,” an informed source said.

Arjuna recommendations

Among the sportspersons who have got the nod of the committee for Arjuna Award were Akinkya Rahane (cricket), Shiva Thapa (boxing), Gurpreet Singh and Apurvi Chandela (shooting), Soumyajit Ghosh (table tennis), Subrata Paul (football), Sourav Kothari (snooker), Vinesh Phogat and Amit Dhankar (wrestling).

The 12-member committee is headed by Justice S.K. Aggarwal, a retired justice of Delhi High Court, and it has two journalists in it along with others.

State governments, the Indian Olympic Association, the concerned National Sports Federation, previous Khel Ratna Awardees and Director General of Sports Authority of India can recommend names for Khel Ratna.

The Sports Ministry too has the discretionary power to do so.

The deadline for submission of applications was April 29 but the Sports Ministry can recommend any sportsperson for the prestigious award even after the end of the deadline for submission of the names of candidates.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that Dipa's coach Biseshwar Nandi has been recommended for the Dronacharya Award and he is likely to get the nod after his ward's sensational performance in Rio.

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