A day after the Olympic Games came to an end in Rio de Janerio, the government on Monday conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award 2016 to ace pistol shooter Jitu Rai along with badminton player P.V. Sindhu, wrestler Sakshi Malik and gymnast Dipa Karmakar. This is for the first time the nation’s highest sporting award has been conferred on four athletes.
Jitu was selected for the country’s highest sporting honour for his exploits in pistol shooting in the last two years although he couldn’t win a medal in the Rio Olympics.
The 29-year-old Rai, currently ranked third in the world in the Men’s 10m Air Pistol, was one of two Indian shooters to make the final of their respective events in Rio, the other being Abhinav Bindra.
Rai shot a qualification score of 580 and made it to the finals of the men’s air pistol before ending up eighth. He was however unable to reach the finals of the 50m psitol, his pet event, in the Rio Games.
Rai was the first shooter to qualify for the Rio Olympics after winning a silver medal at the 51st Shooting World Championships in Spain in 2014.
Rai also won a gold medal in the 2014 Commonwealth and Asian Games.
This year Rai has won the silver medal in the men’s air pistol at the ISSF World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan and a gold medal at the ISSF World Cup in Bangkok in 50m pistol.
Seven shooters, including India’s lone individual Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra, have so far bagged the Khel Ratna with the last recipient, Ronjan Sodhi, receiving it in 2012-13.
The Ministry also selected rifle shooter Apurvi Chandela and pistol shooter Gurpreet Singh for the Arjuna Award.
Apart from a medal and a citation, a Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee will receive a cash award of Rs.7.5 lakh while the Arjuna awardee will receive statuette, certificate and a cash award of Rs.5 lakh.
The awards will be distributed by President Pranab Mukherjee on August 29.
Congratulations Champ @JituRai for your Khel Ratna. May you continue to aim higher
— GAGAN NARANG (@gaGunNarang) August 23, 2016
— SHIMON SHARIF (@ShimonSharif) August 23, 2016