AFI nominates Neeraj Chopra for Khel Ratna, Dutee and Chitra named for Arjuna

New Delhi: Athletics Federation of India on Wednesday nominated Commonwealth Games and Asian Games gold medal winning javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra for the country’s highest sporting honour Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.

Having captured the attention of athletics fans around the world when he won the crown in the World Junior Athletics Championships in 2106, he has been India’s leading athlete since.

“We are sure that Neeraj will get the nod this time around after he missed out on being picked for the award when weightlifter Mirabai Chanu edged him out in 2018 and wrestler Bajrang Punia was chosen ahead of him last year.

The immensely popular athlete deserves the award for his performances ahead of the 2021 Olympics and it will motivate him to do even better,” AFI President Adille J Sumariwalla said in a statement.

For the Arjuna Award, the AFI panel chaired by Anju Bobby George nominated 2018 Asian Games gold medallists, triple jumper Arpinder Singh and middle-distance specialist Manjit Singh as well as sprinter Dutee Chand, who won two Asian Games silver medals, and middle-distance runner PU Chitra who won gold medals in successive Asian Athletics Championships in 2017 and 2019 besides an Asian Games bronze.

“We believe that Awards selection committee will consider the fact that track and field sport is among the most intensely competed even in the continent. It is also important to remember that in the Asian Games in Jakarta in 2018, athletics accounted for 20 of 70 medals, including half of 16 gold, won by Indian sportspersons,” Sumariwalla said.

Deputy Chief Coach Radhakrishnan Nair, the only Indian to complete International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Programme by the International Olympic Committee with honors, has been nominated for the prestigious Dronacharya Award. “Radhakrishnan has selflessly hand-held many athletes and coaches over the past few years,” he said.

Kuldip Singh Bhullar, who won the discus throw silver medal in the 1982 Asian Games here, and sprinter Jincy Philip, who finished fourth in the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, have been nominated for the Dhyan Chand Award, given for lifetime achievement to those who missed out on the Arjuna Award during their sports career.

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