Devendra Jhajharia today became the first para athlete to receive India's highest sporting honour -- Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna -- along with hockey star Sardar Singh, who has endured trying times off the field in the last one year.
Javelin thrower Jhajharia is the only Indian to win two Paralympic gold medals -- 2004 Athens Games and 2016 Rio Paralympics -- while star mid-fielder Sardar has been the architect of India hockey team's many victories in the last few years.
The 36-year-old Jhajharia had created world records while winning both his gold medals. He had also clinched a gold medal at the 2013 World Championships.
The 31-year-old Sardar has faced allegations of sexual harassment by a Indian-origin British hockey player. He, however, denied the allegations and the government committee, led by justice CK Khattar, chose him for the honour.
Sardar had become India's youngest captain when he led the side at the 2008 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup at the age of 22.
A recipient of the Padma Shri - the fourth highest civilian award - 2015, Sardar has two Asian Games medals -- gold in 2014 Incheon and bronze in 2010 Guangzhou.
In a ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, President of India Ram Nath Kovind conferred the prestigious awards to mark the National Sports Day. The prestigious award is given for the spectacular and most outstanding performance in the field of sports by a sportsperson over a period of four years.
Seventeen athletes from a variety of sports in India were honoured with Arjuna Awards, while seven coached were facilitated with Dronacharya awards. Bhupender Singh, Syed Shahid Hakim and Sumarai Tete received the Dhyan Chand awards for a lifetime of service towards sports.
Late Dr. R. Gandhi (Athletics), Heera Nand Kataria (Kabaddi), GSSV Prasad (Badminton-lifetime), Brij Bhushan Mohanty (Boxing – Lifetime), P.A. Raphel (Hockey – Lifetime), Sanjoy Chakraverthy (Shooting – Lifetime), Roshan Lal (Wrestling – Lifetime) were the coaches to receive the Dronacharya awards.
The 17 athletes honoured with the Arjuna awards are Cheteshwar Pujara, Harmanpreet Kaur, Mariyappan Thangavelu, Varun Bhati, SSP Chawrasia, Saketh Myneni, Khusbir Kaur, Aarokiya Rajiv, Prashanti Singh, SV Sunil, Satyawrat Kadian, Anthony Amalraj, PN Prakash, Jyothi Surekha Vennam, Jasvir Singh, Devendro Singh and Bembem Devi.
Pujara, however, missed the ceremony due to his commitment to Nottinghamshire County Cricket.
Nita Ambani was conferred with Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar for Reliance Foundation Youth Sports.
Punjabi University, Patiala, was conferred with the coveted Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (MAKA) trophy for being the best university in the field of sports.