Arjuna Award: NRAI nominates Manu, Saurabh, Abhishek, Elavenil

India pistol shooters Saurabh Chaudhary, Abhishek Verma and Manu Bhaker have been nominated for the Arjuna award alongside rifle shooter Elavenil Valarivan.

Saurabh Chaudhary (left) and Abhishek Verma with their medals during the 2018 Asian Games in Palembang. - AFP

Pistol shooters Saurabh Chaudhary, Abhishek Verma and Manu Bhaker have been recommended by the National Rifle Association of India as its nominations for the Arjuna Award alongside Elavenil Valarivan in the rifle category this year.

Rajiv Bhatia, secretary, NRAI, confirmed, “The nominations will be sent to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) shortly.”

Earlier, sources privy to matters of the federation had told Sportstar, “It is almost final that Saurabh and Abhishek will be nominated.”

Verma and Chaudhary, currently holding the third and fourth place, respectively, in the 10m air pistol world rankings, scripted history in 2018, having shot two medals at the Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang. While Chaudhary claimed the top spot, Verma settled for bronze.

Ahead of the season-ending Rifle and Pistol World Cup Final in Putian last November, Verma (rating: 2149) and Chaudhary (rating: 2697) had been leading the 2019 standings. Chaudhary was additionally conferred with the Golden Target award for being able to close the season as the World No. 1.

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Only 18, Chaudhary has 12 gold, four silver and two bronze ISSF medals marked against his name since his professional debut in the junior events in 2016. Verma, on the other hand, has been a late bloomer. However, in a span of just two years, the Haryana-born marksman has bagged gold thrice alongside a silver and bronze in ISSF competitions.

World No 1 in 10m air rifle Elavenil, who has won seven ISSF gold, one silver and bronze apiece and World No 2 in 10m air pistol Bhaker, who won her Olympic quota in Munich last year, were also added to the initial list of recommendations on Thursday.

Moudgil for Khel Ratna, Jaspal for Dronacharya

The federation has also confirmed that Anjum Moudgil and Jaspal Rana have been nominated for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the Dronacharya award.

Moudgil, who had been the only winner from the sport during the last edition of the National Sports Awards, having won the Arjuna, has been marked for the highest sporting honour this time around. The 26-year-old is currently the World No. 4 in 10m air rifle. The Tokyo quota holder additionally competes in the 50m rifle 3 Positions event, as well.

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Rana, the national pistol coach, will be a nominee for the prestigious 1985-instituted award once again, after being ignored last time after none of his proteges, including Bhaker and Chaudhary, mentioned him as their mentor in official records.

Commenting on the occasion, Raninder Singh, president of the federation, said, “Our shooters had an outstanding last season and it was a particularly difficult selection to make this time around.

"I wish all those recommended all the very best and hope those who could not make it this year, force us to do so next time around with their performances. I believe all are equally talented and will certainly reap rich awards if they carry on the way they have.”