Khel Ratna for Vijay, Yogeshwar, 25 to get Arjuna awards

New Delhi: Olympic medallists Vijay Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt will be jointly conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, the country`s highest sporting honour. While an unprecedented 25 sportspersons will be bestowed upon the Arjuna awards this year.

The choices were made by a selection committee headed by 2004 Olympics silver-medallist shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and comprising noted sportspersons such as Akhil Kumar (boxing), Khajan Singh (swimming), Bhaichung Bhutia (football) and Ravi Shastri (cricket) in a meeting yesterday.

Pistol shooter Vijay won a silver in the 25m rapid fire event at the London Olympics, while Yogeshwar bagged a bronze in 60kg free style event.

"Normally only one award of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna is given every year to an individual sportsperson. However, the Scheme provides that this condition can be relaxed in exceptional circumstances viz, winning of an Olympic medal," the Sports Ministry said in a statement announcing the final list of awardees.

Cricketer Yuvraj Singh, who is preparing to stage a comeback after recovering from a rare germ cell cancer, is among the 25 sportspersons, who have been picked for the Arjuna award.

Hockey mid-fielder Sardar Singh, wrestler Geeta Phogat, and Narsingh Yadav, shooters Annu Raj Singh and Omkar Singh, shuttlers P Kashyap and Ashwini Ponappa, archers Deepika Kumari and Bombayla Devi are among Arjuna Award winners this year.

"For the Arjuna Awards, normally not more than 15 awards are to be given in any calendar year. However, the Scheme of Arjuna Awards also provides that keeping in view the performance of Indian sportspersons in the Commonwealth, Asian Games and Olympic Games during a particular year, Arjuna Awards exceeding 15 in number may be allowed with proper justification and approval of the Minister for Youth Affairs & Sports," the Ministry said.

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