Vijender, Mary Kom, and Sushil get Khel Ratna

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New Delhi, July 29 (ANI): Wrestler Sushil Kumar and boxers M C Mary Kom and Vijender Singh have been selected for this year's Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.

It is the first time when the nation's highest sporting honour is being bestowed upon three sportspersons.

In 1996-97 and 2002-03, the prestigious award had been shared by two sportspersons.

"Normally, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award is given to only one sportsperson in a year. However, taking into consideration the spectacular performance of Vijender and Sushil, the Government has accepted the recommendation of the Selection Committee to confer the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award on both of them as a special case, in addition Mary Kom," the sports ministry said in a statement.

Four-time world champion M C Mary Kom and Olympic bronze medallist Vijender are the first boxers to get the award which carries an enhanced prize money of 7.5 lakh rupees and a citation.

"I feel very honoured. Besides, this award has given me the motivation to continue," said Mary Kom, 25, four times gold medallist at five World Championships held so far.

The mother of two, who is International Boxing Association's ambassador for women's boxing, was overlooked for last year's Khel Ratna, which had gone to Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

A bronze medallist from Beijing Olympics, ended wrestling's 56-year-old wait for a medal at the world's biggest sporting extravaganza.

Star cricketer Gautam Gambhir, badminton sensation Saina Nehwal, world record holder double trap shooter Ranjan Sodhi, veteran hockey player Ignace Tirkey and chess player Tania Sachdev were among the 15 athletes selected for the Arjuna awards.

Former All England champion and Saina's coach Pullela Gopichand and Satpal Singh, who trained Sushil for Beijing Olympics, were among those picked for the Dronacharya award.

The awards would be given away by President Pratibha Patil at a glittering function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on August 29, celebrated as the National Sports Day. (ANI)

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