Asiad gold medallist wrestler Bajrang Punia has threatened to go the legal way after he was overlooked by the selection committee for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.
Addressing a press conference in the capital on Thursday, the star wrestler expressed his displeasure at being ignored for the country's highest sporting honour.
Despite being nominated for the Khel Ratna by the Wrestling Federation of India following his gold medals at this year's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and Jakarta Asian Games, Bajrang wasn’t recommended for the award.
But the government jointly bestowed the honour to India cricket captain Virat Kohli and world champion weightlifter Mirabai Chanu (48kg).
Bajrang, who also won a bronze medal in 2013 World Championships, 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 Punia
"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," said Bajrang.
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.”
"One 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 Punia
Bajrang feels he deserves the recognition for his consistent performances over the last few years. According to the wrestler, in 2014, he didn’t apply for the awards even though he had won medals at the Asian Games, Commonwealth and the World Championships since he believed he didn’t deserved it yet.
"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. " - Bajrang Punia
The Khel Ratna snub has already taken a toll on Bajrang’s preparations for the World Championships to be held in Budapest, Hungary from October 20 to 28.
"This decision has hit my World Championship preparations. It was a big jolt to me. It is difficult times for me. I hope I don’t have to approach the court and concentrate on my preparation." - Bajrang Punia
Insisting that he has support from all quarters, Bajrang said he will not involve the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) in this matter. But assured that his mentor Yogeshwar Dutt has backed him completely.
"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
(With inputs from PTI)
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