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Laxman, Tirkey, Sita get Arjuna Awards

NEW DELHI AUG. 21. Cricket is back in favour with the Government, thanks to V.V.S. Laxman's match-winning knock of 281 against the touring Australians.

The stylish middle-order batsman figures in the list of 14 Arjuna Award winners for the year 2001, announced by the Union Ministry of Sports here on Wednesday.

The match-fixing scandal had cast a shadow and for two years no cricketer was considered for the prestigious award. Before Laxman, it was wicket-keeper Nayan Mongia who received the award, for the year 1998.

Men's hockey captain Dilip Tirkey, former women's hockey team captain, Sita Gussain, footballer Bruno Coutinho and cueist Devendra Joshi are the other prominent achievers named in the list of Arjuna Award winners.

The Dronacharya Awards, just two in number for the year 2001, have gone to former World billiards champion and current National coach, Michael Ferreira and the National coach in shooting, Prof. Sunny Thomas.

Ferreira was the coach of the Indian team that won two gold, one silver and a bronze medal in the 1998 Asian Games and was also coach of Indian team for the 2001 Amateur World Billiards championship that was won by Geet Sethi. It was after 13 years that amateur World title came to India.

Prof. Thomas has been with the shooting team for long and India has been doing well at the international level.

The selection committee for Arjuna Award was headed by former All England champion Prakash Padukone while that for the Dronacharya Award was chaired by hockey Olympian Ajit Pal Singh.

Yet another panel, with Kapil Dev as its chairman, has been formed to pick the sportsperson to receive the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.

Interestingly, this year no chess player has been named among the Arjuna Award winners despite Indians achieving spectacular results abroad.

The awards will be presented by the President of India at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan on August 29.

Arjuna awards: Parminder Singh (basketball), Devendra Joshi (billiards and snooker), V. V. S. Laxman (cricket), Bruno Coutinho (football), Dilip Tirkey (hockey), Sita Gussain (hockey), B. C. Ramesh (kabaddi), Kasam Khan (rowing), Samresh Jung (shooting), Sandeep Kirtane (tennis), Amir Singh (volleyball), Ramesh Kumar (wrestling), Lt. Cdr. R. Mahesh (yatching) and K. R. Shankar Iyer (athletics and cricket in disabled).

Dronacharya: Michael Ferreira (billiards and snooker) and Prof. Sunny Thomas (shooting).

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