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Pankaj Advani gets Khel Ratna


Digvijay Singh Deo,CNN-IBN
Aug 29, 2006 at 09:44pm IST

New Delhi: President APJ Abdul Kalam conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Arjuna awards -- country's highest sporting honours -- for 2005 at the Darbar Hall in Rashtrapati Bhavan on Tuesday.

The biggest winner of the evening was cueist Pankaj Advani who won the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna.

Advani, only 21, is the reigning world billiards and snooker champion and had also won the gold medal at the Asian Championships last year.

Kalam also gave away the Dronacharya Awards to four coaches while 15 sportspersons were given the coveted Arjuna.

Ace shooter Gagan Narang, nine-time national badminton champion Aparna Popat and the physically challenged athlete Rajinder Singh Rahelu were the prominent Arjuna winners.

The most surprising fact was that no one from the men's cricket team was among the winner. The lone representative from cricket was woman cricket player Anju Jain who bagged the Arjuna.

However, the day belonged to the young Advani and was very excited on receiving the ultimate sporting honour of the country.

"I am not in a state of mind to say anything now. I am too excited," said Advani, who is only the second cueist after Geet Sethi to receive the Khel Ratna.

"First let me just enjoy this moment and then I will think what next," he said after the function.

Advani had flown in on Tuesday morning itself from the United States after leading his team to the IBSF World Snooker Team Championships final in San Jose, California.

The Khel Ratna comprises a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh, a medal and scroll of honour while Arjuna awardees are given Rs 3 lakh, a statuette and a scroll of honour.

The roll of honour:

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award: Pankaj Advani (Billiards & Snooker).

Arjuna Awards: Tarundeep Rai, Dola Banerjee (Archery), Manjit Kaur(Athletics), Aparna Popat(Badminton), Anuja Prakash Thakur (Billiards and Snooker), Akhil Kumar (Boxing), Surya Shekhar Ganguly (Chess), Anju Jain (Cricket), Viren Rasquinha (Hockey), Gagan Narang(Shooting), Shikha Tandon (Swimming), Ramesh Kumar (Kabaddi), Soumyadeep Roy (Table Tennis) Sushil Kumar Kumar (Wrestling), Rajinder Singh Rahelu (Physically Handicapped).

Dhyan Chand Awards: Uday K Prabhu (Athletics), Nandy Singh (Hockey), Harish M Birajdar (Wrestling).

Dronacharya Awards: M Venu(Boxing), Balwan Singh (Kabaddi), Maha Singh Rao (Wrestling), Ismail Baig(Rowing).

Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Awards: Nawang Gombu (Life Time Achievement), Chhering Norbu Bodh (Land Adventure), Shital Kamalakar Mahajan (Air Adventure) and Comdr Mukul Asthana (Water Adventure).

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