New Delhi: Asian Games gold medallist Jitu Rai has been recommended for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award for his exploits in pistol shooting in the last two years although he couldn’t win a medal at the Rio Olympics. Woman gymnast Dipa Karmakar who created history by entering the vault final at the Rio Olympics before finishing fourth also recommended for this award.
Dipa got the nod of the 12-member committee, which met in New Delhi on Wednesday, on the basis of her stupendous performance in Rio although the deadline for sending in the recommendation to the Sports Ministry was already over.
The 23-year-old Tripura-born gymnast became an overnight sensation after she finished fourth in the women's vault final on August 14, missing the bronze by a mere 0.150 points. She had won bronze medal in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Jitu, on the other hand, was ranked third in the world in the men's 10m air pistol. He was one of two Indian shooters to make the final of their respective events in Rio, the other being Abhinav Bindra.
The 28-year-old Rai entered the final of the men's 10m air pistol before ending up eighth but could not advance to the same stage in the 50m pistol, his pet event, in the Rio Games.
This year, Rai has won the silver medal in the 10m air pistol event at the ISSF World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan and the gold medal at the ISSF World Cup in Bangkok in 50m pistol. He was the first shooter to qualify for Rio Games after winning a silver medal at the World Championships in Spain in 2014.
Any sportsperson who wins a medal in their sport in the remaining days of the ongoing Rio Olympics will be included among those recommended for Khel Ratna, according to sources.
An Olympic medal has also been treated at par with medals in the World Championships. Indian Test cricket captain Virat Kohli's name was also discussed but the likes of Dipa and Jitu were preferred since this is an Olympic year, the sources said.
Kohli also missed out because the government wants to keep a few slots open in case the likes of shuttler P V Sindhu, who has reached the semifinals in the Rio Games, wins a medal.
Rajiv Khel Ratna is given to the sportsperson who has produced spectacular and outstanding performance in the last four years and it carries a cash amount of Rs 7.5 lakh. The Khel Ratna winner (s) will receive the award from President Pranab Mukherjee on National Sports Day on August 29. Woman tennis star Sania Mirza was the last recipient of the award in 2015.