Arjuna Awards and controversy go hand in hand but top Indian shooter Heena Sidhu feels some athletes are bestowed with the prestigious honour before their time. (Arjuna Award will boost my Asian Games gold ambition: Tintu Luka)
"I think every year there will be a controversy over awards and some or the other deserving athlete will miss out. Having said that, some of the decsions taken are pre-mature. I am sure there is a more efficient system to pick the athletes," Heena, who was conferred the Arjuna Award along with 13 other athletes at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here today, told PTI.
The shooter was ranked world number one in her pet 10m pistol event as recent as April. She was replying to a question on the controversy that preceded the function with eyebrows being raised over the selection of fellow awardees, boxer Jai Bhagwan and squash player Anaka Alankamony.
Heena surprisingly had a quiet Commonwealth Games last month and she said the Arjuna Award will give her that extra motivation for the World Championships and Incheon Asian Games next month.
"It is a good feeling to get the award on my third attempt but I don't really work towards them. If you do well, the awards and recognition has to follow," added the 25-year-old.
Jai Bhagwan, who was chosen over Manoj Kumar for the honour, said the controvery over the awards did not bother him though he wanted the efforts of his fellow boxer to be recognised.
"There will be controversies, you can't do much about them. Last year was even bigger," Bhagwan said referring to discus thrower Krishna Poonia, who ran from pillar to post to get the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. Eventually, shooter Ronjan Sodhi was picked ahead of her.
"However I feel Manoj should have got the award too with me," he added.
Manoj has already gone to Delhi High Court against the Kapil Dev-led selection committee's decision to overlook him for the Arjuna.
Anaka, who has managed the Arjuna despite winning the national title in squash, prefers to look ahead than dwell in the past.
"I don't know what people have said about me but if the committee thought I was deserving, that is good enough for me. This award will push me to work harder towards my goals," said the World No.151 squash player.
India's highest-ranked male squash player Saurav Ghosal had earlier said it was a bit too soon for Anaka to get the award. Ghosal got the Arjuna in 2007.
Golfer Anirban Lahiri was also one of the Arjuna recipients on Friday. "It means a lot to me. I missed a tournament in Italy to be here. It will surely give me a boost to perform at the international stage. I did read a bit about the controversy regarding the awards and I feel only the deserving should be picked," he said.