The Khel Ratna Award or the Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award is the highest sporting honour conferred upon sportspersons in India. The award is conferred by the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs annually on National Sports Day, i.e., August 29, every year. The award is accompanied by a cash prize of ₹25 lakh.
Khel Ratna Award Origin
The award was started by the then-Prime Minister P.V. Narsimha Rao and was dedicated to and named after Rajiv Gandhi. The award was started as Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award. It was awarded for the first time to Chess maestro Viswanathan Anand in 1991-1992.
Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award
On August 6, 2021, the Prime Minister of India announced that the award has now been renamed after illustrious hockey player and sportsman extraordinaire Major Dhyan Chand Singh. The award is now called Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award.
Major Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime Achievement in Sports and Games
The Major Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime Achievement in Sports and Games is different from the newly rechristened Khel Ratna Award. The award is accompanied by a cash prize of ₹10 lakh along with a certificate and ceremonial dress. The conferment of this honour was initiated in 2002. The first recipients of the award (in 2002) are:
- Shahuraj Birajdar
- Ashok Diwan
- Aparna Ghosh
In 2020, 15 sportspeople were honoured with this award.
Khel Ratna Award Selection Process
The selection process for the Khel Ratna Award is quite extensive. Let us understand how candidates are nominated and the process they go through before awardees are finally selected.
- First, the nominations are received from government-recognized National Sports Federation (NSF), State/UT Governments and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) among other organizations in the months of January and/or February.
- For the sport of cricket, nominations are received from the Board of Control for Cricket in India or the BCCI.
- In rare cases, the government may also nominate no more than 2 names if they have not been nominated by anyone else.
- All nominations for the year are finalized by the end of April.
- The nominations are then sent to the SAI and the National Anti-Doping Agency. Nominees for verification. Nominations cleared by both authorities are then sent to the Selection Committee.
- A 12-member selection committee is constituted by the Government of India and headed by the Chairperson.
- The committee reviews a nominee’s performance over a period of 4 years, (immediately preceding the year for which they are being considered) particularly their performance in international representation such as the Olympics or Commonwealth Games.
- For a particular sporting event or discipline, only 2 nominees may be selected, one male and one female.
- The recommendations of the committee are sent to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports for final selection.
- The Ministry under the union minister then finally selects the awardees for the year.
Khel Ratna Awardees
As of 2021, a total of 43 sportspersons have received the Khel Ratna Award some of whom include Virat Kohli, Sania Mirza, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu and P.V. Sindhu. The government has not yet announced the names of the recipients for 2021.
Khel Ratna Award 2020
The Khel Ratna Award 2020 was conferred upon 5 sportspersons. They are:
- Rohit Sharma
- Mariyappan Thangavelu
- Manika Batra
- Vinesh Phogat
- Rani Rampal
Khel Ratna Award Trivia
- Other sports awards conferred in India are Arjuna Award, Dronacharya Award, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy and Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar
- No Khel Ratna Award was given in 2008 and 2014.
- Delhi’s National Stadium was also renamed Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in 2002.
- National Sports Day is celebrated in India on August 29, 2021. The day marks Major Dhyan Chand’s birth anniversary.
- Major Dhyan Chand was honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 1956.
- Previous Khel Ratna Award winners can nominate other sportspersons in the same sport for which they have won the award.
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