Asian and Commonwealth Games gold-medallist wrestler Bajrang Punia was on 16 August 2019 nominated for the country’s highest sporting honour – the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. His name was finalised by a 12-member selection committee on the opening day of a two-day meeting. The panel comprises the likes of Bhaichung Bhutia and MC Mary Kom among others.
- Bajrang has been nominated for the Khel Ratna award. His name was a unanimous choice. The 12-member panel may add another athlete for the top honour on 17 August 2019 besides finalising the names for the Arjuna and Dronacharya awards.
- Bajrang had last year won the gold medal in the 65-kg freestyle event at the Asian Games held in Jakarta.
- He had also won the gold medal in the same category at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. He is also a two-time medallist at the world championships and a strong medal hope for India at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
- He along with Vinesh Phogat was recommended by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for the prestigious award. Punia recently defended his title at the Tbilisi Grand Prix as he won the gold medal by prevailing over Iran’s Peiman Bibyani in the 65kg final of the men’s freestyle competition.
- Current number one wrestler Punia stamped his authority in the Asian circuit after he won the Asian Wrestling Championships in Xi’an, China.
- Punia had last year won the gold medal in the 65-kg freestyle wrestling event at the Asian Games held in Jakarta. He defeated Japanese wrestler Takatani Daichi 11-8.
- Before that, he had also won the gold medal in the same category at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
- He overcame Kane Charig of Wales by Technical Superiority to clinch the gold. Last year, Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli and weightlifter Mirabai Chanu were awarded with the Khel Ratna Award.
- The first recipient of the award was Chess Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand, who was honoured for his performance in the year 1991-92.