The 37-year-old wrestler is currently training for the Tokyo Olympics.
Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar has hinted that increase in the number of nominations for the highly-coveted sporting accolades in India could rather end up hindering its prestige.
For the very first time, five athletes were recommended for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, besides 29 recommendations were made for the Arjuna Award by the selection panel to the sports minister. The move has been called into question with many concerned by the potential effect it might have on the importance of these awards.
Accordingly, Sushil Kumar too subtly indicated his apprehension over so many athletes being nominated for the award, stating that the concerned authorities must attempt to preserve the honour of these awards.
“I congratulate the ones who have been nominated but I feel people should work towards maintaining the dignity of these national sports awards. This is not even an Olympic year. I myself is an athlete, so I am happy for all, but we must maintain the pride attached with these awards,” Sushil told PTI.
Indian cricketer Rohit Sharma, wrestler Vinesh Phogat, table tennis ace Manika Batra, Paralympian gold-medallist Mariyappan Thangvelu, and women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal have been chosen to receive the country’s highest sporting honour.
Rohit Sharma has been in terrific form in the last few years, consistently scoring big runs for the Indian cricket team, while Vinesh Phogat has won numerous medals after a horrific injury during the 2016 Rio Olympics. The aggressive Indian opener will be the fourth cricketer to receive the Khel Ratna award. Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli have already got their hands on the honour.
Vinesh Phogat won gold medals at the 2018 Commonwealth and Asian Games and a bronze medal at the 2019 Asian Wrestling Championships, which made her a contender for the award. On the other hand, Mariyappan Thangavelu has been rewarded for his gold medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympics in the T42 high jump category. T42 category applies to athletes with single above the knee amputations or a disability that is comparable.
Manika Batra got the recognition for her amazing performance in 2018, as she won gold at the Commonwealth Games and a bronze medal at the Asian Games. She still has to qualify for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, which have been postponed to 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Back in 2016, four athletes were bestowed upon with the Khel Ratna award- with badminton player PV Sindhu, wrestler Sakshi Malik, shooter Jitu Rai, and gymnast Dipa Karmakar all being awarded on the back of their displays at the Rio Olympics.
Furthermore, Sushil Kumar was also confused to why past displays of athletes that have already been recognized with an award have again been taken into consideration this year with Sakshi Malik and Mirabai Chanu being two such cases.
“Not only this, even it has been noted that a performance which has already fetched an athlete award in the past, has been considered again this year,” he observed.
Sushil Kumar is currently training as he is aiming to feature at the upcoming Olympics, however, he is poised to face stiff competition for a spot on the plane to Tokyo next year.