An introduction to the 12 Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna awardees of 2021

National Sports Awards for 2021 will be held on Saturday. An unprecedented 12 athletes including 5 para-athletes will be bestowed with Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award. Here’s a look at the 12 athletes who will be receiving India’s biggest sporting honour:

Neeraj Chopra (Athletics): Neeraj Chopra is India’s new sporting superstar. At the Tokyo Olympics, he became only the second Indian to win individual gold at the mega event. The 23-year-old won the yellow medal in men’s javelin throw with an attempt of 87.58m. Neeraj has also won gold medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games held in the same year.  Neeraj’s first major accomplishment came In 2016 when he bagged gold at the IAAF U20 Championships thus becoming the first Indian athlete to achieve the feat.

Ravi Dahiya (Wrestling): Ravi Dahiya clinched a silver medal on his Olympic debut in Tokyo in men’s 57kg freestyle. The 23-year-old is also a bronze medalist from the 2019 World Wrestling Championships and a two-time Asian championship gold medalist. Dahiya had also excelled at the junior level having bagged a silver medal at the U20 World Championships in 2015 and the U23 World Championships in 2018.

Lovlina Borgohain (Boxing): Lovlina Borgohain won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in the women’s welterweight category. The 23-year-old also became the first female athlete from Assam to feature in the Olympics. Borgohain also won a bronze medal at the 2018 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships and the 2019 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships.

PR Sreejesh (Hockey): PR Sreejesh played a pivotal role in the Indian national team’s bronze medal win at the Tokyo Olympics. He made his debut in 2004 and has represented the national team in 244 matches. 33-year-old Sreejesh has made notable contributions for India in many memorable victories and won the best male goalkeeper award at the won FIH Player of the Year Awards (2020-21).

Manpreet Singh (Hockey): Manpreet Singh led the Indian men’s hockey team to a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. He made his debut for India in 2011 and has played for 277 matches for the national side. The 29-year old midfielder was awarded Men’s FIH Player of the Year in 2019.

Mithali Raj (Cricket): Mithali Raj is the highest run-scorer in women’s international cricket with 10454 runs across all formats. The 38-year old made her international debut in 1999 and has represented the Indian women’s team in 321 matches across all formats. In 2019, she became the first woman to complete 20 years in international cricket.

Sunil Chhetri (Football): Sunil Chhetri is the second joint-highest international goal-scorer among the active players with 80 goals. The 37-year old made his international debut in 2005 and has represented India in 125 matches. He is the first footballer to be honoured with the Khel Ratna award.

Avani Lekhara (Para-Shooting): Avani Lekhara is the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic gold medal. She won a gold medal in 10m air rifle standing and a bronze medal in 50m rifle 3 positions at Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, thus becoming the first Indian female Paralympian to win two medals in Paralympics history.

Manish Narwal (Para-Shooting): Manish Narwal won the gold medal in Mixed P4 – 50 m pistol SH1 at the Tokyo Paralympics. The 20-year-old also holds the world record in P4 mixed 50m pistol SH1 which he created in the 2021 Para Shooting World Cup at Al Ain.

Sumit Antil (Para-Athletics): Sumit Antil won a gold medal in the men’s javelin throw F64 category at the 2020 Summer Paralympics. 23-year-old Antil broke his world record thrice during the event and clinched the gold with a splendid effort of 68.55m.

Pramod Bhagat (Para-Badminton): Pramod Bhagat won a gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics in men’s singles SL3. The 33-year-old has also won 6 World Championship medals which includes four yellow medals.

Krishna Nagar (Para-Badminton): Krishna Nagar won a gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics in men’s singles SH6. The 22-year old has also bagged a silver in men’s double’s SS6 and a bronze in men’s single’s SS6 at the 2019 Para-Badminton World Championships.

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