27 April 2018
New Delhi. Commonwealth Games gold medal winning javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra has been recommended by the Athletics Federation of India for the country’s highest sporting honour – the Khel Ratna Award. In addition to the Khel Ratna, Chopra, 20, has also been recommended for the Arjuna Award by the federation. Chopra is one of three athletes who have been recommended for the Arjuna Award – with javelin thrower Annu Rani and four time Commonwealth Games medalist Seema Antil Punia also being recommended.
The federation has also nominated legendary athlete turned coach PT Usha for the Dronacharya Award. India youth team coach, Sanjay Garnaik, has also been been recommended for the Dronacharya Award.
For Dhyanchand Award, the names of Boby Aloysis, Kuldeep Singh Bhullar and Jata Shankar have been recommended to the ministry by AFI while TP Ouseph is recommended for Life Time Achievement Award.
The Commonwealth Games gold medal was only the latest of several accomplishments for Chopra in his short career so far. In 2016 he became the first Indian to win a gold medal at any world event in athletics when he claimed a gold at the World Youth Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland. His winning throw of 86.48m was both a national record as well as a still standing world record in the youth category. Chopra subsequently won a gold medal at the 2017 Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar. Favourite ahead of the Gold Coast games, Chopra would live up to that expectation. His throw of 86.47m would see him becoming only the fifth Indian athlete to have won a track and field gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.
Seema Punia Antil-
An Arjuna award for discus thrower Seema would be a suitable reward for a long career at the highest level. Seema was always destined for success, winning a medal at the 2000 World Junior Championships. Her excellent start at a junior level, however, hit the controversy immediately as she received a warning for the use of a stimulant- pseudoephedrine, a drug widely used in medications for common cold. Nevertheless, Seema has never been suspended and subsequently won a bronze at the 2002 World Junior Championships. The athlete competed nearly unstopped for the past two decades. Starting with the 2006 edition in Melbourne, Seema has never finished out of the podium at the Commonwealth Games, winning a bronze and three silvers, the last of which came at the 2018 Games at Gold Coast. The 34-year-old athlete from Sonipat, Haryana, has also competed in 3 Olympic Games. In the last Asian Games at Incheon in 2014, Seema did India proud by winning a gold medal.
Bahadur Singh, Chairman of Arujna Award recommendation committee of AFI, said, “Seema deserves an Arjuna Award. She is one of the greatest and most consistent athlete India has produced. Her four-consecutive gold medals at Commonwealth Games proves that,”
PT Usha’s Dronacharya Award nomination comes 34 years after she won both the Arjuna Award as well as the Padma Shri award for her achievement on the track – she had finished fourth at the 1984 Olympics. Usha who remains one of India’s most accomplished athletes with 11 medals at the Asian Games, had retired in 2000 with a promise to nurture a new crop of athletes. She has managed to do just that. The Usha school of athletics, formed in 2002 has consistently managed to produce athletes for the country. It’s most successful athlete has been 800m runner Tintu Luka. Luka has won two gold medals at the Asian Championships and also a gold medal in the women’s 4x400m relay and a silver in the 800m at the 2014 Asian Games. Usha has continued producing athletes of excellence with Asian Junior champion Jisna Mathews the latest in the production line of excellence.
25-year-old Annu Rani is also in the running for an Arjuna Award. The national record holding javelin thrower, has won bronze medals at the 2014 Asian Games in Busan as well as the 2017 Asian championships in Bhubaneshwar. And although she missed making the Indian team at the Commonwealth Games, she would certainly be bidding to make up for it at the Asian Games in Jakarta.