President Ram Nath Kovind recalled the spectacular journey of hockey wizard Dhyan Chand to inspire the youth of the nation on the National Sports Day.
Dhyan Chand, who was born on this day in 1905, came from a humble background but won three Olympic gold medals for India.
Patiently sitting through the function, which lasted about an hour, and applauding every award winner when the citation was read, the President expressed admiration for three women athletes Manika Batra, Vinesh Phogat and Rani Rampal, who were among five athletes who won the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. He was equally happy about Thangavelu Mariyappan, the paralympic gold medallist, who was also among the awardees for the highest sporting honour.
Addressing the nation from the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the President was confident that India was on its way towards becoming a sporting power and meeting its target of figuring among the top-10 in the medals table of the Olympics in 2028.
Emphasising the influence of sporting victories in uniting the nation, the President said that a Tamil Nadu player winning sent happy waves to the far corner of the country in Ladakh. He was equally vehement in stressing that not many understood the challenges faced by the athletes who overcome all hurdles to achieve success for the nation.
Appreciating the contribution of organisations that supported sports, the President made it clear that sports was not only the government’s responsibility. He appreciated the efforts of the sports fraternity to stay positive during the testing times of COVID-19, by organising online coaching, educative webinars, etc.
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The Arjuna and Dhyan Chand awardees, coaches, the Tenzing and Norgay adventure award winners, the representatives of organisations that won the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar, had assembled in Bengaluru, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Delhi, Hyderabad, Itanagar, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Pune and Sonepat.
They were all connected online by the National Informatics Centre, and the awards function was telecast live by Doordarshan .
Enhanced cash awards
The Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju was at the Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi along with some of the awardees, and made a welcome speech. The sports minister also announced an enhanced cash award of ₹25 lakh for the Khel Ratna, ₹15 lakh for the Arjuna and Dronacharya lifetime awards, and ₹10 lakh for the regular Dronacharya and the Dhyanchand awards.
Rijiju said the hike from ₹7.5 lakh for Khel Ratna and ₹5 lakh for the other awards needed a revision, as they were fixed in 2008.
The 60 awardees were given the citation with the promise that the bronze statuette would be presented at a later date. A few others could not attend owing to varied reasons.
Assuring the athletes and coaches who may have missed the award, Rijiju reiterated that the awards took into account “the cumulative performance” over a span of four years, and thus the deserving candidates had a bright chance of getting the award next year.