Officially known as the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in Sports and Games, it is the highest sporting honour in India; Manika Batra was one of five recipients, the others being Rohit Sharma (cricket), Mariyappan Thangavelu (Paralympic high jump), Vinesh Phogat (wrestling) and Rani Rampal (hockey – women).
“The award has come as a real shot in the arm for me as well the game of table tennis. I feel humbled when the government recognises and appreciates your efforts and achievements. This (award) is a big source of motivation. The expectation of people will add to my responsibility. I will strive harder to bring more laurels to the country.” Manika Batra
Unfortunately, there was no ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Presidential Palace in New Delhi, no meeting with the President but Manika Batra was both upbeat and realistic.
“In the current (pandemic) situation, a real challenge for all athletes, I will strive hard to do something even bigger and get a chance to meet him proudly.” Manika Batra
Arguably, Manika Batra is the sportsperson in India to have achieved the honour in the shortest time possible; it very much recognises the fact that at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games she led India to women’s team success before emerging the women’s singles gold medallist.
Both were firsts for India, major landmarks; just as is the Khel Ratna award.