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New Delhi: Olympic medallists Vijay Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt were today jointly conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award -- the country's highest sporting honour -- while an unprecedented 25 sportspersons were honoured with the Arjuna awards in a glittering ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan here.
A loud applause greeted the two Olympic heroes as they received their Khel Ratna Awards from President Pranab Mukherjee in the presence of a host of Ministers, dignitaries and sports celebrities. Cricketer Yuvraj Singh, who is preparing to stage a comeback after recovering from a rare germ cell cancer, also received a thunderous applause as he received the Arjuna award with hordes of cameramen capturing his moment of glory.
Pistol shooter Vijay had won a silver in the 25m rapid fire event at the London Olympics, while Yogeshwar bagged a bronze in 60kg free style event. Both the medallists collected the trophy that consists of a medal, citation and cash prize of Rs 7.5 lakh each.
The choices were made by a selection committee headed by 2004 Olympics silver-medallist shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and comprised noted sportspersons such as Akhil Kumar (boxing), Khajan Singh (swimming) and Bhaichung Bhutia (football) among others besides a few bureaucrats. Normally only one award of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna is given every year to an individual sportsperson.
However, the scheme provides that this condition can be relaxed in exceptional circumstances like winning of an Olympic medal. Hockey mid-fielder Sardar Singh, wrestler Geeta Phogat, and Narsingh Yadav, shooters Annu Raj Singh and Omkar Singh, shuttlers P Kashyap and Ashwini Ponappa, archers Deepika Kumari and Bombayla Devi were among Arjuna Award winners this year.