Even before reaching New York in her bid to win back-to-back Grand Slam title at the US Open with her partner Martina Hingis, Sania Mirza set her sights on the Padma Bhushan by submitting her application for the country’s third highest civilian award last month.
It was only last month that she received India’s top sports award — the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. Sania has the distinction of being one of the youngest recipients of the Padma Shri award at the age of 19 in 2006.
Not only Sania, but a host of other international sportspersons have applied for the Padma awards in different categories, which include two-time Olympic medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar, shuttler Saina Nehwal and 13-time world billiards and snooker champion Pankaj Advani.
Saina’s application for Padma was rejected by the ministry last year on the account that “she did not complete the mandatory five-year gap between the two Padma awards”. Nehwal had received the Padma Shri in 2010.
Interestingly, no cricketer has so far applied to the ministry for these awards. Last year, the BCCI had recommended Mahendra Singh Dhoni for Padma Bhushan, while nominating Virat Kohli and Mithali Raj for Padma Shri.
Mithali had received the Padma Shri from President Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in April this year.
The ministry has received a total of 24 applications for the Padma awards this year. It will recommend the names of eight sportspersons to the home ministry after short-listing the candidates.
For the record, Sushil’s father-in-law and renowned coach Satpal was bestowed upon the 2015 Padma Bhushan by the Ministry. But, this time Sushil has himself applied for the Padma Bhushan after missing out on the honour last year. Giving him the competition in the same Padma category is Advani and hockey team captain Sardar Singh.
India’s latest shooting sensation Jitu Rai, who received the Arjuna Award this year, has applied for the Padma Shri along with shuttler Parupalli Kashyap, boxer Vikas Krishnan, wrestlers Geetika Jakhar and Alka Tomar, cueists Rupesh Shah and Alok Kumar, and chess player D Harika.
Some of the veterans who have applied for Padma Shri include boxing coach GS Sandhu, Davis Cup team captain Anand Amritraj among others.