Asian Games 2018 gold medallist Bajrang Punia to talk to sports minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore about Khel Ratna snub
Bajrang said: 'It doesn't feel good to beg for an award, but it is the biggest honour for any sportsperson and a wrestler's career is very uncertain. Any time an injury can end your career.'
New Delhi: Miffed at being ignored for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, star wrestler Bajrang Punia on Thursday threatened to take the legal action against the government for not considering him for the country's highest sporting honour.
Bajrang was nominated for the Khel Ratna by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) following his twin gold medals at this year's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and Jakarta Asian Games.
But the government jointly bestowed the honour to India cricket captain Virat Kohli and world champion weightlifter Mirabai Chanu (48kg).
The decision didn't go down well with Bajrang, who also won a bronze medal in 2013 World Championships, and the wrestler is scheduled to meet Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore on Friday to plead his case.
"I'm really disappointed and shocked. I'm meeting Sports Minister tomorrow after (mentor) Yogi bhai (Yogeshwar Dutt) spoke to him and arranged the meeting. I just want to know why I was being ignored. I want to know the reason," Bajrang told reporters.
"It's in his hands now. I want to know whether I am deserving or not. If I deserve then only give me the award."
Asked if he will go to the court if he fails to convince the Sports Minister, Bajrang said: "It would be the last option. I feel I deserve the award this year and that's why I have applied for it.
"It doesn't feel good to beg for an award, but it is the biggest honour for any sportsperson and a wrestler's career is very uncertain. Anytime an injury can end your career."
Bajrang feels he deserves the recognition for his consistent performances over the last few years.
"I had never imagined I won't get it this year. Look at my performance in the last 4 years. There was no point system earlier but with the point system in place now I feel I have the numbers behind me," he said.
Bajrang said the Khel Ratna snub had taken a toll in his preparations for the World Championships to be held in Budapest, Hungary from 20 to 28 October.
"This decision has hit my World Championship preparations. It was a big jolt to me. These are difficult times for me. I hope I don't have to approach the court and concentrate on my preparation," he said.
Insisting that he has support from all quarters, Bajrang said he will not involve the WFI in this matter.
"I didn't talk to the federation about this matter. They have forwarded my name, that means they are with me. But this is my personal fight," he signed off.
In a departure from tradition, the National Sports Awards this year will be given away on 25 September instead of 29 August because of the clash of dates with the Asian Games that concluded earlier this month.
Tokyo Olympics 2020: Emotional homecoming for Mirabai Chanu as silver-medallist breaks down on meeting parents
Chanu, who won the silver medal in the women's 49kg category on Saturday, was seen hugging her mother Saikhom Ongbi Tombi Leima and her father Saikhom Kriti Meitei with tears rolling down her face as security guards formed a ring around her.
Chanu revealed that after the Rio Games debacle she changed her training and technique completely so that she could redeem herself in Tokyo.
Competing in the 49 kg category, Chanu is being considered a sure shot medal prospect for India as her personal best of 205 kg is only second to China's Hou Zhihui's effort of 213kg in the eight-woman field.