New Delhi, Aug 14 : The sports ministry on Friday confirmed that tennis icon Sania Mirza will be awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Rat, the country's highest sporting honour, while 17 others, including cricketer Rohit Sharma, hockey goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh and ace shooter Jitu Rai will be given Arju awards.
Apart from the quartet, wrestlers Bajrang and Babita Kumari, men's singles shuttler Kidambi Srikanth, boxer Mandeep Jangra, rower Sawarn Singh, 400 metres runner M.R. Poovamma, archer Sandeep Kumar, 2014 Commonwealth Games medal winning gymst Dipa Karmakar, kabaddi players Manjeet Chillar and Abhilasha Shashikant Mhatre, roller skater Anup Kumar Yama, weightlifter S. Sathish Kumar, wushu athlete Y. Sathoi Devi and para-swimmer Sharath M. Gaekwad will also be given the annual Arju awards.
"A large number of nomitions were received for these awards this year, which were considered by the Selection Committee headed by Justice V.K. Bali, former Chief Justice of Kerala High Court and consisting of eminent sportspersons and sports administrators," the ministry said in a statement. Sania, who became the first Indian woman to achieve the World No.1 spot in doubles, recently clinched the Wimbledon crown with Swiss star Marti Hingis. She has four Grand Slam titles.
The Hyderabadi is only the second tennis player after Leander Paes to be med for the top sports award. Paes received the honour in 1996 after clinching the bronze medal at the Atlanta Summer Olympics.
She had also received the Arju award in 2004 and was awarded the Padma Shri -- the country's fourth highest civilian honour -- in 2006.
Among the sportspersons who will receive the Arju awards, goalkeeper Sreejesh played a key role in India winning the Asian Games hockey gold medal and the silver medal in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Rohit has scored 4312 runs in One-Day Intertiol (ODI) cricket. He holds the record of most number of runs (264) in an ODI. The right-handed batsman also played a key role in India's performance at the World Cup 2015.
Pistol shooter Rai got a gold medal in CWG 2014 and backed it up with another yellow metal in the 2014 Asian Games. He is also a bronze medallist at last year's World Championships.
Athlete Poovamma was part of the team that won the gold medals in the 4X400 metres relay race at the Asian Games as well as the Asian Athletics Championships. She won the bronze medal in the 400 metres race at the Asian Games 2014. Kabaddi players Chillar and Abhilasha were part of the Asian Games gold medal winning men's and women's teams.
Wrestler Bajrang won the silver medal in the 60kg category at the 2013 World Championships. He also bagged two silver medals at last year's Asian Games and CWG. Women's World Wrestling championships bronze medallist Babita will also get the Arju award. she is also a gold medallist in the 55kg class at the 2014 CWG. Woman gymst Dipa got bronze medals in the CWG 2014 as well as at the Asian Championships. Sathish is an Asian Games champion while Sathoi won a bronze medal in the wushu competition at the 2014 Asiad. IANS