India’s javelin star Neeraj Chopra has been nominated for the country’s highest sporting honour – the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna – by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) on Wednesday (June 3). The 22-year-old has already been conferred with the Arjuna Award back in 2018 in reward for his gold-medal winning performance in the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Apart from Chopra, Asian Games gold medallists Arpinder Singh (triple jump) and Manjit Singh (800m) and reigning Asian champion middle distance runner PU Chitra were recommended for the Arjuna Award along with sprinter Dutee Chand.
A Sports Ministry panel will shortlist the nominations received from various national federations with the awards to be presented on National Sports Day, August 29.
“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,” AFI president Adile Sumariwalla said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The immensely popular athlete deserves the award for his performances ahead of the 2021 Olympics and it will motivate him to do even better,” he added.
Chopra, who has already qualified for the now-postponed Tokyo Olympics, had also won the gold at the 2018 Asian Games.
On the Arjuna Award recommendations, Sumariwalla said, “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," he added.
Deputy chief coach Radhakrishnan Nair, the only Indian to have completed International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Programme of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with honours, has been recommended for the Dronacharya Award.
Kuldip Singh Bhullar, who won discus throw silver medal in 1982 Asian Games in Delhi, and sprinter Jincy Philip, who finished fourth in 2002 Asian Games in Busan, have been nominated for the Dhyan Chand Award, given for lifetime achievement to those who missed out on Arjuna Award during their sporting career.