Star cricketer Rohit Sharma and decorated woman wrestler Vinesh Phogat were among the four athletes recommended on Tuesday for this year’s Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award — the country’s highest sporting honour.
Woman paddler Manika Batra and Rio Paralympic gold-winning high jumper Mariappan Thangavelu were the other two sportspersons recommended for the prestigious award by a 12-member selection committee of the Sports Ministry.
This is only the second time that four athletes have been recommended for the top sporting accolade.
In 2016, star shuttler PV Sindhu, gymnast Dipa Karmakar, shooter Jitu Rai, and wrestler Sakshi Malik were collectively given this award.
The 33-year-old Rohit will only be the fourth cricketer after Sachin Tendulkar, just-retired Mahendra Singh Dhoni and current skipper Virat Kohli to be conferred with the Khel Ratna. Tendulkar was the first Indian cricketer to get the Khel Ratna in 1998, followed by Dhoni in 2007 and Kohli in 2018, who won it jointly with weightlifter Mirabai Chanu.
The committee, comprising the likes of Virender Sehwag and former hockey captain Sardar Singh, met at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) headquarters here.
While Rohit has been recognised for his ever-rising accomplishments with the bat, Vinesh has been rewarded for her gold medals in the 2018 Commonwealth and Asian Games besides a bronze in the 2019 Asian Wrestling Championships.
Thangavelu got the recognition for his gold medal in the 2016 Rio Paralympics in the T42 high jump category. T42 applies to athletes with single above the knee amputations or a disability that is comparable.
Star paddler Manika was recommended for her remarkable performance in 2018, a year during which she won the Commonwealth Games gold medal and Asian Games bronze in women’s singles.