Dhoni gets Khel Ratna, 11 receive Arjuna Award


New Delhi : Mahendra Singh Dhoni was conferred the nation’s highest sporting honour Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna while eleven sportspersons received the Arjuna award from President Pratibha Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here Friday.

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Dhoni, who is leading the team in Sri Lanka one-day series, was not present at the award ceremony and his father Pan Singh accepted the honour on his behalf. The Khel Ratna carries a medal, a ceremonial dress, the scroll of honour and a cash prize of Rs. 500,000.

Three coaches, including Jagdish Singh who guided the careers of the Bhiwani trio of Akhil Kumar, Vijender and Jitender, received the Dronacharya award.

Sanjeev Kumar Singh (archery), G. E. Sridharan (volleyball), Jagminder Singh (wrestling) were the three other coaches to receive the honour. The awardees received a statuette of Dronacharya, a scroll of honour, ceremonial dress and a cash prize of Rs 300,000.

It is a day which every sportsperson dreams of and on Friday they stood in the grand Ashok Hall of imposing Rashtrapati Bhavan, with citations of their achievements being read out before being presented with a statutte of Arjuna, a scroll of honour, ceremonial dress, and a cheque of Rs. 300,000.

The Arjuna awardees were Chitra K Soman (athletics), Anup Sridhar (badminton), Verghese Johnson (boxing), D. Harika (chess), Arjun Atwal (golf), Prabhjot Singh (hockey), Tombi Devi (judo), Bajranj Lal Takhar (rowing), Avneet Kaur Sidhu (shooting), Alka Tomar (wrestling) and Farman Basha (powerlifting — disabled category).

Prabhjot, the top goal scorer in 2007, was ecstatic.

“It is a big occasion for me. We failed to qualify for the Olympics this year and I thought I will not get the award. It has come as a pleasant surprise,” he said.

Coach Jagdish dedicated the award to his disciples.

“I have got the award because of the performance of my students. They have brought laurels for the country in international events and Vijender’s Olympic bronze medal was the icing on cake. It was the reward of the hard work that I have put behind them all these years,” Jagdish said.

For shooter Avneet Kaur Sidhu and judoka Tombi Devi, the award will goad them to perform even better.

“We need such encouragement. It inspires us to take our performance to a new level,” said Tombi.

Avneet said it was a dream come true for her.

“I am feeling at the top of the world. My performance in Beijing was below my best but after Abhinav Bindra’s gold medal win, we think even we can do it. He has raised the bar for the shooters,” Avneet said.

The Dhaynchand award, given to the retired sportsperson who continues to promote sports, went to Hakam Singh (athletics), Mukhbain Singh (hockey).

Tenzing Norgay award – the highest national recognition for outstanding achievement in the field of adventure sports – went to Subedar Neel Chand, Subedar Mohinder Singh, Air Commodore Tushar Kanti Rath, Captain M. S Kohli.

The Punjabi University, Patiala, was given the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy for the best university for its all-round performance in sports.