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Athletes should not take legal route to get awards: Sreejesh

Indian hockey team’s goalkeeper P R Sreejesh feels that athletes taking the legal route to get National Sports Awards is a disturbing trend and it devalues the honour and pride associated with the award.

“Athletes or coaches should not approach the court to get awards. I know it is happening quite often of late but it puts the athletes in bad light and takes the sheen off the honour associated with it,” Sreejesh told PTI after receiving the Arjuna award from President Pranab Mukherjee today.

“In my view, there should be an appeal panel which the athletes can approach in case they feel the selection process has been unfair. That is a much better way of dealing with the matter than taking the legal route.

“Plus, you also have the option of applying for the award next year. Look at the example of Tom Joseph (volleyball player). He finally got the Arjuna last year after being ignored for such a long time,” Sreejesh added.

The ceremony did take place but was shrouded in controversy with the ignored athletes and coaches not accepting the recommendations of the government-appointed panel.

Just when it seemed there would be no controversy in the lead up to this year’s function, para-athlete H N Girisha approached the Karnataka High Court challenging Sania’s recommendation for Khel Ratna.

The Sports Ministry was fighting a court case 12 hours before the ceremony today with wrestling coach Vinod Kumar approaching the Delhi High Court, claiming he was more deserving for the Dronacharya award than his rival Anoop Singh, whose name was recommended by the government-appointed panel.

Talking about the Rio Olympics, Sreejesh said the team looks in good shape under the guidance of coach Roelant Oltmans even though it can do without the regular chopping and changing of coaches witnessed in Indian hockey.

“There is an issue if you keep changing the coaches but the good thing for us is that we still have Roelant. We have a good rapport with him and the team is improving fast. We have formed a good bunch of defenders and strikers that we need to make a mark in Rio.”

Badminton player K Srikanth was another one to be bestowed with the Arjuna. The world No 4 said the award will motivate him to become world No 1.

“It is a huge motivation to be getting the award from the President. It has been a tough yet fruitful journey so far but the ultimate goal is to be number one in the world,” said the 22-year-old.