New Delhi,11 January: Ace pacer  Mohd. Shami and para-archer Sheetal led the star Prade as President Draupadi Murmu honoured  26-best-performing athletes and para-athletes with Arjuna awards while coaches were conferred with Dronachary awards at an elegant ceremony at the Darbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhawan here on Tuesday

Shuttlers Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy were chosen for the coveted Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award for their superb performances in 2023, during which they won their maiden Asian Games gold -- a first for the country in badminton --, while also clinching the Asian Championships title and the Indonesia Open Super 1000 title. The duo is currently playing in the Malaysia Open Super 1000 and therefore could not attend the function.

Chirag and Satwik, who became world No.1 last year, would be aiming for an Olympic medal in Paris, having all but sealed qualification for the global showpiece later this year by virtue of being world No.2.

Arjuna Award is the second highest sporting honour in India after the Khel Ratna Award. The awards ceremony, usually held on August 29 to commemorate the birth anniversary of hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand, was deferred because of the Hangzhou Asian Games from September
23 till October 8 last year. While the Khel Ratna comes with a cash prize of Rs 25 lakh, the Arjuna and Dronacharya awards include a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh.

The list was dominated by the athletes from the Asian Games 2023 where India won a record tally of 107 medals. The awesome performance  shattered India's previous best haul of medals, which stood at 70, achieved during the Jakarta 2018 Asian Games.

Shami, who walked into rapturous applause at the Darbar Hall ,,is currently recovering from an ankle injury, He took 24 wickets in seven World Cup games last year.Later, Shami wrote on X saying, "Today I am feeling very proud that I have been honoured with the prestigious Arjuna Award by the President. I want to thank all those people who have helped me a lot to reach here and have always supported me in my ups and downs... thanks to My Coach, BCCI, teammates, family, and staff and big thanks to my fans. Thanks for recognizing my hard work. I will always try to give my best to make my country proud... Again thanks to everyone.. Congratulations to other Arjua award winners."

Para archer 16-year-old Sheetal Devi, who won two gold medals in the Hangzhou Asian Games, is the first international para-archer without upper limbs due to a rare condition called Phocomelia. The President held Sheetal’s award and the scroll as the teenager soaked in the atmosphere and the splendor of the hall.

The President also walked down the podium to present the Arjuna to wheelchair-bound para-canoeist Prachi Yadav, winner of gold in Hangzhou, once again drawing a huge round of applause.

Also receiving a big applause was the newly-crowned chess Grandmaster R. Vaishali, the elder sister of R. Praggnanandhaa.Vaishali was honoured for becoming the third woman from the country after Koneru Humpy and Dronavalli Harika to turn GM.

Pistol shooting star, 19-year-old Esha Singh, was among the notable absentees as she is competing in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Jakarta.On Monday, she qualified for the Paris Olympics after winning the individual and team gold in 10m air pistol events.

Other  who were  bestowed the Arjuna award this year were wrestler Antim Panghal, and  former junior world champion and bronze-winner at the senior event last year, boxer Mohammad Hussamuddin (bronze-winner at last year's world championship).

Among the notable Dronacharya awardees this year is chess coach RB Ramesh, who has groomed Praggnanandhaa.


The recipients (2023 awards):

Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award for 2023: Chirag Shetty and Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy (badminton).

Arjuna Awards: Ojas Pravin Deotale (archery), Aditi Gopichand Swami (archery), Murali Sreeshankar (athletics), Parul Chaudhary (athletics), Mohammad Hussamuddin (boxing), R Vaishali (chess), Mohammed Shami (cricket), Anush Agarwalla (equestrian), Divyakriti Singh (equestrian dressage), Diksha Dagar (golf), Krishan Bahadur Pathak (hockey), Sushila Chanu (hockey), Pawan Kumar (kabaddi), Ritu Negi (kabaddi), Nasreen (kho-kho), Pinki (lawn bowls), Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar (shooting), Esha Singh (shooting), Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu (squash), Ayhika Mukherjee (table tennis), Sunil Kumar (wrestling), Antim Panghal (wrestling), Naorem Roshibina Devi (wushu), Sheetal Devi (para archery), Illuri Ajay Kumar Reddy (blind cricket), Prachi Yadav (para canoeing).

Dronacharya Award (regular category) for outstanding coaches: Lalit Kumar (wrestling), RB Ramesh (chess), Mahaveer Prasad Saini (para athletics), Shivendra Singh (hockey), Ganesh Prabhakar Devrukhkar (mallakhamb).

Dronacharya Award (life-time category) for outstanding coaches: Jaskirat Singh Grewal (golf), Bhaskaran E (kabaddi), Jayanta Kumar Pushilal (table tennis).
Dhyan Chand Award for lifetime achievement: Manjusha Kanwar (badminton), Vineet Kumar Sharma (hockey), Kavitha Selvaraj (kabaddi).

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (MAKA) Trophy 2023: Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar (overall winner university); Lovely Professional University, Punjab (1st runner -up), Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra (2nd runner-up).

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