For the very first time, the Sports Ministry announced five athletes to be conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award. Namely, Cricketer Rohit Sharma, Wrestler Vinesh Phogat, Table Tennis player Manika Batra, Para High Jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu, and women’s Hockey Team Captain, Rani Rampal are the athletes who will be conferred with the country’s highest sporting honor.

They will receive the award on the occasion of National Sports Day on August 29. The award ceremony will be held virtually due to the lockdown. 

Rohit Sharma is the fourth Cricketor to be awarded this award after Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and, Virat Kolhi. He was the leading run-scorer in ODI’s in the 2019 calendar year. Moreover, he played an important role in India’s journey of the ICC World Cup scoring three centuries in the tournament. 

Vinesh Phogat is by far the only Wrestler to have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. She bought laurels for the country in various international tournaments. 

Rani Rampal helped the Indian team secure a berth at the Tokyo Olympics. While Mariyappan won a gold medal Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in men’s high jump T42 category, Manika is the first Indian women paddler to clinch an individual gold at the Commonwealth Games. 

According to rule 10.1 in the entry form of the Khel Ratna Award, “there will be only one award every year to be given to an individual sportsperson.” Rule 10.2 of the Arjuna Award says, “Normally not more than 15 Arjuna awards could be given in any calendar year.” In both cases, it is specified that the ‘condition will be relaxed only in exceptional circumstances’.

While five athletes have been approved for the Khel Ratna Award, a jumbo list of 27 athletes have been approved for the Arjuna Award. Despite this year not being an Olympic year, yet the Ministry has agreed to confer a jumbo list of athletes. This is one of the reasons why four Khel Ratnas were awarded in 2016 to athletes who performed exceedingly well in Rio. Before 2016, there had just been one Khel Retna barring a few exceptions. 

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