Neeraj Chopra, Ravi Kumar, Mithali Raj among 12 awarded Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna

Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna

Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna

Olympic champion, javelin throwing expert, Neeraj Chopra, veteran women cricketer, Mithali Raj and awe-inspiring Paralympic stars shared the fame and focus as an unprecedented 12 sports persons were bestowed upon with the highest sporting title in India- the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna on Saturday. 

President Ram Nath Kovind honoured them with the appreciation. A grand function was held to congratulate and facilitate the country's biggest sports talents at the Durbar Hall in Rashtrapati Bhavan, for their unparalleled performances. 

After the Covid-19 pandemic, the event took place in person. The chief appeal of the evening show was Chopra, who received his Khel Ratna award amidst thunderous applause and cheer from the selected dignitaries present at the specially organised function. Chopra was the first among the Khel Ratna awardees to receive the honour.

Besides the 23-year-old star, other recipients of the Khel Ratna honour, were Olympic bronze-winning Indian men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh, doyen goalkeeper P R Sreejesh, Olympic silver-medallist wrestler Ravi Dahiya, Olympic bronze-winning boxer Lovlina Borgohain and Mithali.

For the first time in history, a footballer got recognised with this honour: a well-selected recognition for keeping similarities with the likes of Lionel Messi in scoring international goals. Paralympic gold-winners Avani Lekhara (Shooting), Sumit Antil (Athletics), Pramod Bhagat (Badminton), Krishna Nagar (Badminton), Manish Narwal (Shooting) were also given the title for their outstanding performances. 

Apart from 12 Khel Ratnas, India this year has 35 Arjuna awardees. The long list this year was a result of the historic medal haul at the Olympics (7) and Paralympics (19), which made India proud and represented her strongly on international platforms. 

The event is customarily held on August 29 every year to celebrate the birth anniversary of hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand. The Khel Ratna award carries a cash prize purse of Rs 25 lakh, a medal and a scroll of recognition. The Arjuna award carries a prize money of Rs 15 lakh, a bronze statue and a scroll of honour.

The chief selected guests for the ceremony were India's sports minister Anurag Thakur along with a host of other dignitaries, including his predecessor Kiren Rijiju.

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