New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday awarded Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award to Olympic medallists Vijay Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt besides presenting a record 25 Arjuna Awards at a grand ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Pistol shooter Vijay, who won the silver medal, and broze winning wrestler Yogeshwar were honoured with the country's highest Khel Ratna award for their sterling performances at the London Olympics. The award carries a statuette, citation and cash prize of INR 7.5 lakh each.
"It is the biggest award that I have received in my career. The aim now is to maintain my Olympic form for the coming events like the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. I will begin training from next month onwards," said Vijay.
For the first time, an unprecedented 25 sportspersons were presented with the Arjuna Award since this was the Olympic year. The award instituted in 1961 carries a statuette, citation and enhanced cash prize of INR 5 lakh each.
Cricketer Yuvraj Singh, who has recovered from cancer, badminton players Ashwini Ponnappa and Parupalli Kashyap and hockey star Sardar Singh were among the sportspersons who were conferred with the honour. But the loudest applause was reserved for Deepa Malik and Ramkaran Singh, paralympic athletes.
"I am deeply honoured by this award. Paralympics is a very underrated event and I hope now that people will take more interest," said Deepa while sitting in her wheelchair.
Ashwini said, "This is a big motivation after the disappointment in London. It was funny that I had to apply for the award myself but I am glad that I got it."
Sardar Singh, who is rated by Coach Michael Nobbs as "one of the best players in the world", said he was happy to get the award he should have got last year.
The president also gave away Dronacharya Awards to eight coaches in recognition of their achievements. The award carries a statuette, citation and enhanced cash prize of INR 5 lakh each.
Among the recipients were Cuban boxing coach Blas Iglesias Fernandez, who became the first foreigner to get the award instituted in 1985.
The awardees are:
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna: Vijay Kumar (shooting), Yogeshwar Dutt (wrestler).
Dronacharya Award: Virender Poonia (athletics), Sunil Dabas (kabaddi women), Yashvir Singh (wrestling), Harendra Singh (hockey), Satyapal Singh (para sports ahletics), J.S. Bhatia (athletics), Bhawani Mukherjee (table tennis), and B.I. Fernandez (boxing).
Arjuna Award: Deepika Kumari (archery), Laishram Bombayla Devi (archery), Sudha Singh (athletics), Kavita Ramdas Raut (athletics), Ashwani Ponnappa (badminton), Parupalli Kashyap (badminton), Aditya Mehta (billiards and snooker), Vikas Krishan (boxing), Yuvraj Singh (cricket), Sardar Singh (hockey), Yashpal Solanki (judo), Anup Kumar (kabaddi), Samir Suhag (polo), Annu Raj Singh (shooting), Omkar Singh (shooting), Joydeep Karmakar (shooting), Deepika Pallikal (squash), Sandeep Sejwal (swimming), Sonia Chanu (weightlifting), Narsingh Yadav (wrestling), Rajinder Kumar (wrestling), Geeta Phogat (wrestling), Bimoljit Singh (wushu), Deepa Malik (athletics paralympics), and Ramkaran Singh (athletics paralympics).
Dhyanchand Award: Jagraj Singh Mann (athletics), Gundeep Kumar (hockey), Vinod Kumar (wrestling), and Sukhbir Singh Tokas (para-sports).
Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar: Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL), Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB), and Services Sports Control Board (SSCB).