Indian sportspersons honoured in virtual ceremony

India's sporting heroes were bestowed the annual national awards in an unparalleled online ceremony amid the COVID-19 pandemic during which athletes logged in from multiple cities to be honoured by President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday. This year a whopping 74 winners were picked for the national honours, including an unprecedented five Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratnas and 27 Arjuna awardees. Of these, 60 attended the virtual ceremony conducted across 11 Sports Authority of India (SAI) centres in various cities.

Rohit, Ishant skip ceremony

Cricketers Rohit Sharma (Khel Ratna) and Ishant Sharma (Arjuna) missed out due to their IPL commitments in the UAE, while star wrestler Vinesh Phogat (Khel Ratna) and badminton player Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (Arjuna) had to pull out of the ceremony after testing positive for the dreaded virus. The other three Khel Ratna winners—TT player Manika Batra, Paralympic gold-medallist Mariyappan Thangavelu and women's hockey captain Rani Rampal—attended the ceremony.

While Batra logged in from Pune, Thangavelu and Rampal joined from Bangalore. President Kovind applauded as names of the attending awardees were called out and their achievements were cited as is the convention. Missing, however, was the grandeur of the Rashtrapati Bhavan's Durbar Hall.

Hike in prize money

The prize money for the Khel Ratna was increased to R25 lakh from the previous amount of R7.5 lakh. Arjuna awardees, 22 of who attended the ceremony, were given R15 lakh, which is R10 lakh more than the previous sum 

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