Published On: Fri, Jul 22nd, 2011

Gagan Narang Set to Get Khel Ratna, Arjuna for Zaheer

Ace Indian shooter Gagan Narang, who notched up four gold medals at last year’s Commonwealth Games, is all set to be conferred with the country’s highest sporting honour – the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna – after being recommended for the honour by the awards selection committee today.

The 28-year-old rifle shooter, who was the first Indian marksman to qualify for next year’s London Olympics with a bronze in the World Championships last year, had been disgruntled at being “ignored” for the award last year.

“Gagan Narang has been recommended for the Khel Ratna this year,” a source in the awards selection committee told PTI.

“The recommended names for the Khel Ratna and Arjuna awardees have been sent to the Sports Ministry and it will be officially announced after being approved by the Ministry,” the source said.

Indian pace spearhead Zaheer Khan has been picked for the Arjuna award. The 32-year-old fast bowler, who is currently in England for the ongoing Test series, has taken 271 wickets in cricket’s longer format at an average of 31.94.

Zaheer has 273 one-day wickets at an average of 28.84. The last time a male cricketer got the Arjuna award was 2009 when Gautam Gambhir was picked for the honour.

The other Arjuna awardees this year include Indian football captain and striker Sunil Chettri, rising tennis star Somdev Devvarman and ace badminton player Jwala Gutta.

Somdev had struck a golden double last year by finishing on top in both the Commonwealth and Asian Games singles events.

Fly weight boxer Suranjoy Singh, who clinched an astonishing seven back-to-back gold medals last year including the Commonwealth Games gold, is also in the list of athletes recommended for the Arjuna.

Discus thrower Vikas Gowda, who won a bronze medal in the Asian Games last year, and long-distance runner Preeja Sreedharan, an Asian Games gold-medallist, were the track and field athletes who made the cut, according to the source.

Among shooters, India’s first woman world champion Tejaswini Sawant, who clinched the top honours in the 50m rifle prone event, has been recommended for the Arjuna award.

Ashish Kumar, the first Indian gymnast to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games, also made the list. Ashish had clinched a silver in the men’s vault and bronze in the men’s floor events of the Delhi Games.

Wushu player Sandhya Rani is set to feted for her Asian Games silver with the Arjuna award.

Archer Rahul Banerjee, who clinched the men’s recurve gold in the Commonwealth Games last year, has also made the cut in the recommended list.

The selection panel for the awards was headed by sprint legend P T Usha and comprised, among others, tennis ace Leander Paes, hockey icon Ashok Kumar, ace woman boxer M C Mary Kom, shooter Anjali Bhagwat and national squash coach Cyrus Poncha.

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