Sharath, 40, was rewarded for his superlative at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games (CWG), where he won four medals – three gold and one silver. The two-time Asian Games medalist was the only athlete to be recommended among the 42 Khel Ratna aspirants, who had applied for the country’s top athlete this year.
Some of the athletes who missed the Khel Ratna included men’s hockey players Harmanpreet Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh, women’s hockey team captain and goalkeeper Savita Punia and attacker Vandana Katariya, men’s singles badminton player Kidambi Srikanth, fencer Bhavani Devi, freestyle- Men’s wrestler Deepak Punia and 50m rifle 3P specialist Anjum Moudgil.
For the Arjuna Pricethe 12-member committee recommended a total of 25 names, including Birmingham CWG badminton champion in men’s singles Lakshya Senoworld boxing champion Nikhat Zareen, Asian Games gold medalist boxer Amit Panghal, chess prodigy Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, female wrestlers Anshu Malik and Sarita Mor and Nayanmoni Saikia, member of the Indian women’s team that won historic gold in lawn bowls at the Birmingham CWG, among others.
The committee rewarded Lakshya for his consistency since he won the men’s singles bronze at the World Championships in Huelva last year. He finished second at the prestigious All England Open before losing to Danish Viktor Axelsen and led the men’s badminton team to the first-ever gold medal finish in the Thomas Cup. He finished his sensational season with gold in the men’s singles and silver in the mixed team event at his CWG debut in Birmingham.
Lakshya’s mentor and former India coach U Vimal Kumar was present as part of the selection committee and it was not immediately known whether he withdrew from the proceedings when the name of his ward was mentioned. The 21-year-old trains at the Bengaluru-based Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, of which Vimal is the director. Former badminton player and 2006 Melbourne mixed team CWG bronze medalist, Trupti Murgunde, was also part of the committee as the government-appointed Mission Olympic Cell (MOC) member.
Nikhat also followed up on her gold-winning performance at the Istanbul Worlds, with yet another championship show at the Birmingham CWG, where she won the yellow metal in the women’s light flyweight category. Indian track stars in Birmingham, Eldhose Paul and Avinash Sable, were also shortlisted for Arjuna.
Last year, no fewer than 12 athletes, including Olympic javelin champion Neeraj Chopra, and 35 athletes were awarded the Khel Ratna and Arjuna awards respectively.
Khel Ratna (1): Achanta Sharath Kamal
Arjuna Prize (25): Seema Punia, Eldhose Paul, Avinash Sable (athletics), Lakshya Sen, HS Prannoy (badminton), Amit Panghal, Nikhat Zareen (boxing), R Praggnanandhaa, Bhakti Kulkarni (chess), Deep Grace Ekka (hockey), Shushila Devi (judo ), Sakshi Kumari (kabaddi), Nayanmoni Saikia (lawn bowls), Sagar Kailash Ovhalkar (mallakhamb), Elavenil Valarivan, Omprakash Mitharval (shooting), Sreeja Akula (TT), Vikas Thakur (weightlifting), Anshu Malik and Sarita Mor (wrestling) ), Parveen (wushu), Manashi Joshi, Tarun Dhillon (para badminton), Swapnil Patil (para swimming) and Jerlin Anika J (deaf badminton)