Asian Games gold medallist Jitu Rai has been recommended for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award for his exploits in pistol shooting in the last two years although he couldn’t win a medal at the Rio Olympics.
“Yes, we have recommended Jitu’s name for the Khel Ratna award,” National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) secretary Rajiv Bhatia said.
NRAI has also recommended woman rifle shooter Apurvi Chandela and men rifle shooters Gurpreet Singh and P.N. Prakash for the Arjuna Awards, according to Bhatia.
The 29-year-old Rai, ranked third in the world in the men’s 10m air pistol, was one of two Indian shooters to make the final of their events in Rio, the other being Abhinav Bindra.
This year Rai has won silver in the 10m air pistol at the ISSF World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan and the gold medal at the ISSF World Cup in Bangkok in 50m pistol.
Seven shooters, including Bindra, have so far bagged the Khel Ratna with the last recipient, Ronjan Sodhi, receiving it in 2012-13.
Speculation over Dipa
Meanwhile, speculation is rife that gymnast Dipa Karmakar is to be recommended for the same award after her stupendous performance in the ongoing Rio Olympics although the deadline for sending in the recommendation to the Sports Ministry is over.
The 23-year-old Tripura-born gymnast became an overnight sensation after she finished fourth in the women’s vault final on August 14, missing the bronze by a mere 0.150 points.
Officials of the Sports Ministry and Sports Authority of India, however, did not confirm whether Dipa has already been recommended for the highest sports honour or not.
And to add to the confusion, Dipa’s coach Biseshwar Nandi says he also has no clue in this regard.
“I am hearing this [Dipa being recommended for Khel Ratna] for the first time. I have no clue,” Nandi told PTI in Rio when contacted. It is also learnt that Nandi has been recommended for the Dronacharya Award and he is likely to get the nod after his ward’s sensational performance in Rio.
“Nandi’s application was sent to the Ministry before the deadline ended and before the commencement of the Olympic Games. After Dipa’s Olympics performance, he should get the award,” an informed source said.
It is also not clear who has recommended Dipa’s name for the award.
State governments, the Indian Olympic Association, the National Sports Federation concerned (there is no recognised NSF in case of gymnastics due to two warring factions), previous Khel Ratna awardees and the director-general of the Sports Authority of India can recommend names for the Khel Ratna.
The Sports Ministry, too, has the discretionary power to do so.
SAI director-general Injeti Srinivas could not be reached as he is on his way back from Rio.
The deadline for submission of applications was April 29 but the Sports Ministry can recommend any sportsperson for the prestigious award even after the deadline.