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Who are the Khel Ratna Awardees of the 1990s?

Published at :November 7, 2022 at 11:30 PM
Modified at :April 22, 2023 at 12:22 AM
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The prestigious award is the highest sporting honour in India.

The Khel Ratna Award is the most prestigious sporting award in India. It is also known as the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award. The Award is hosted by the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India. The Award selects athletes on the basis of their most spectacular performance over a period of four years at an international level.

The award comes with its perks. It comprises a medallion, a certificate and a cash prize of 25 lakh rupees( US$ 31,000). So far there have been 57 recipients of this award from fifteen sports disciplines. However today we are simply going to concern ourselves with the winners of the 90s. As it was in that decade that this award ceremony came into effect.

Here's the list of the winners of the '90s:

1. Vishwanathan Anand (1991-1992)

Chessmaster Vishwanathan Anand became the first recipient of the Khel Ratna. The Indian Grand Master (GM) had a meteoric rise quite early in his career that paved his way for the Award. He had become a national chess champion at just 16 years in 1986. He followed it up by winning the World Junior Chess Championship in 1987. This made him the first Indian to earn that feat.

However, it was in 1988 when Anand played his best move yet. Anand became India's first GM at 18 years of age courtesy of winning the Shakti Finance International chess tournament in Coimbatore. Not just that but he also managed to beat Russian grandmaster Efim Geller in that event. He also won the Padma Shri that year.

2. Geet Sethi (1992-1993)

Probably the greatest ever billiards player the country has ever produced. Geet Sethi never missed his "cues" to prove himself worthy. His resume speaks for itself. He is a five-time winner of the professional level and a three-time winner of the amateur world championships. He is also a holder of two world records.

Sethi is the only person in the history of cue sports to have scored a maximum (147) in competitive snooker and a 1000+ break in competitive billiards. The Ahmedabad resident has also won all three medal colours at the Asian Games. Currently, he is busy with his organization the Olympic Gold Quest which promotes sports in India.

3. Homi Motivala/ Pushpendra Kumar Garg ( 1993-1994)

Homi Dady Motivala and Pushpendra Kumar Garg were jointly awarded the Khel Ratna for yachting. Motivala and Garg won the bronze medal in the enterprise-class at the 1990 and 1994  Asian Games held at Beijing and Hiroshima respectively. The duo were also the world champions in the same class in 1993.

They both belonged to the Indian Navy. To date, they are the only yachters to win the Khel Ratna.

4. Karnam Malleshwari ( 1994-1995)

Karnam Malleshwari seemed destined for big things. Even before her major success at the Olympics, she was lifting heavy medals with her array of strong performances. Malleswari won the world title in the 54 kg division in 1994 and 1995 and placed third in 1993 and 1996. She won silver at the World Championships in Istanbul in 1994.

Moreover, she won the Asian Weightlifting Championships in Korea in the following year in the 54 kg category. That same year she made a record lift of 113 kg at the World Championships.

5. Nameirakpam Kunjarani (1995-1996)

Kunjarani is undoubtedly one of the most decorated women in women's weightlifting. She is a gold medalist in the 2002 Commonwealth Games. She is a multi-time silver medalist in the World Championships. Moreover a two-time bronze medalist in the Asian Games. She won bronze in 1990 Beijing and in 1994 at Hiroshima in 44kg and 46 kg respectively.

Other than that she also served as the coach of the Indian women's weightlifting team in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. She was also the proud recipient of the Arjuna Award in 1990 and Padma Shri in 2011.

6. Leander Paes (1996-1997)

Leander found great success at the Junior level. He won titles at the Junior US Open and Junior Wimbledon. As a result, he quickly earned the no 1 spot in the junior rankings. He also tasted decent success at the 1992 Olympics during this time. He reached the quarter-finals in Barcelona Olympics teaming up with Ramesh Krishnan.

However, he bettered that in 1996. This time however as a singles player. In spite of struggling with a broken wrist, Paes beat Fernando Meligeni of Brazil to become India's second athlete to win an individual medal. A performance that left the selectors no choice but to bestow him with the Khel Ratna.

7. Sachin Tendulkar (1997-1998)

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar is the first cricketer to win the Khel Ratna. The Master Blaster as he is fondly called was already making waves in the cricketing field by then. He was the youngest player to debut for tests and ODI's for India. Over the years the Mumbaiker showed his calibre as a player.

However, it was his performance at the 1996 World Cup that was crucial behind his Khel Ratna award nomination. The Little Master was the leading run-scorer in that edition. He scored two centuries. Moreover, he was the only batsman to perform well against dominant Sri Lanka in the semi-finals. A match which they unfortunately lost.

The Little Master might have left the pitch for good but his legacy still lives on.

8. Jyotirmoyee Sikdar (1998-1999)

Jyotirmoyee Sikdar was one of India's top-level sprinters during her time. She was a middle-distance runner who won multiple awards at the international level. Jyothirmoyee won a gold medal in the 800 m dash at the Asian Championship in Jakarta Indonesia. She won two more gold medals at the Asian Games hosted in Bangkok, Thailand.

Sikdar won the medals in the 800 m and 1500 m respectively. She also added two bronze medals to her collection in the Asian Championships in 1998 in Fukuoka, Japan. Currently, she is involved in politics after a brief hiatus.

9. Dhanraj Pillay (1999-2000)

One of the hockey greats whose skills and goal-scoring prowess made the world watch in awe. A true successor of Dhyan Chand in every way. Dhanraj Pillay was something else on the hockey track. His career is decorated with medals at the Asia Cup and Asian Games. He scored a record 170 goals for the country in his 329 appearances.

Pillay set a bar which many upcoming hockey players try to follow to this day. He was truly one of a kind athlete.