Indian Women’s Hockey Team captain Rani Rampal, wrestler Vinesh Phogat, and table-tennis player Manika Batra have been announced as winners of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award 2020. Awarded by the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, it includes a medal, certificate, and cash prize of Rs.7.5 lakh. The awards are to be distributed on National Sports Day, which falls on August 29.
This is the first time that the highest honour in sports and games in India is being awarded to five individuals in one year. (The other two recipients of the award this year are cricketer Rohit Sharma and para-high jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu.)
In another first, 27 individuals will be awarded the Arjuna award this year – including sprinter Dutee Chand, cricketer Deepti Sharma, boxer Lovlina Borgohain, golfer Aditi Ashok, and wrestler Divya Kakran among others. Both awards recognize sportspersons who have excelled in their respective fields in four years.
Haryana-based Rani Rampal (25), who has also won the World Games Athlete of the Year (2019), took to Twitter to thank the Sports Ministry, the Sports Authority of India, Hockey India, her coaches and sponsors, along with her friends and family. “In such tough times, I would like to dedicate this award to the Corona warriors and my entire team… To be conferred with such an award before the Olympics certainly brings along a feeling of an added responsibility,” she has added in her tweet.
Watch Rani Rampal’s interview with MAKERS India: Rani Rampal, The Indian Hockey Captain Who Fought Against All Odds
Delhi-based Manika Batra, who is the only Indian to have received The Breakthrough Star Award by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), also thanked the authorities and her sponsors in a tweet. “It's an honour for me to be named as one of the recipients of this year's prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award... Looking forward to bring more laurels,” she added.
Vinesh Phogat, also from Haryana, said on Twitter, “Humbled, privileged, and incredibly honoured to be a Khel Ratna awardee! This prestigious recognition brings with it a lot of responsibility and also a deep sense of happiness. I would like to thank everyone who over the years has supported, encouraged, and motivated me….in my journey as a wrestler. With the grace of god and all your good wishes, I hope to keep making our country proud on the international stage in the years to come!” Winning her maiden World Championship medal in Kazakhstan in September 2019, Vinesh (26) had become the first Indian wrestler to seal a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.