India’s highest sporting honour Khel Ratna Award, which was named after former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, was on Friday rechristened in the honour of hockey wizard Dhyan Chand following the admirable performance of both men’s and women’s hockey teams in the Tokyo Olympics.
Making the announcement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had been getting many requests from citizens across India to name the Khel Ratna Award after Major Dhyan Chand.
“Respecting their sentiment, the Khel Ratna Award will hereby be called the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award! Major Dhyan Chand was among India’s foremost sportspersons who brought honour and pride for (sic) India. It is fitting that our nation’s highest sporting honour will be named after him,” he tweeted.
The exceptional performance of the men’s and women’s Hockey teams has captured the imagination of our entire nation, the prime minister said, adding that there is a renewed interest in the sport that is emerging across the length and breadth of India.
This is a very positive sign for the coming times, the prime minister said.
The prestigious award carries prize money of Rs 25 lakh.
The nation’s highest sports award was previously named after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Major Dhyan Chand was one of the greatest hockey players that India ever produced.
Major Dhyan Chand used to be known for his outstanding scoring ability. He played an instrumental role in the three successive gold medal victories by the Indian men’s hockey team at the 1928, 1932 and 1936 Olympics. He inspired the subsequent Indian teams’ victories at the Olympics. India secured seven gold medals in eight editions of the Games between 1928 and 1964.
Major Dhyan Chand represented India in the period 1926-1949, scoring an incredible 570 goals in merely 185 matches. His birthday on 29 August is celebrated as the National Sports Day in the country.
Social media users had been demanding this change in the name of the award following Indian hockey teams’ remarkable show at Tokyo Olympics 2020.
In the latest Olympic event, the Indian men’s hockey team bagged a bronze medal. This ended the country’s 41-year-drought in the game at Olympics. The women’s counterpart managed the fourth place, which does not quite tell how brilliant they had been in the tournament.
The PV Narasimha Rao government had instituted the Khel Ratna award in 1991-1992 in memory of the recently assassinated Rajiv Gandhi. Chess maestro Viswanathan Anand was the first recipient of the award. Leander Paes, Sachin Tendulkar, Dhanraj Pillay, Pullela Gopichand, Abhinav Bindra, Anju Bobby George, Mary Kom and Rani Rampal have been among the other awardees.