Not all National Sports Award winners grab headlines or find their photos in print in a newspaper. More so, if the sports happens to be low-key like equestrian, which is better known in India for poor administration and governance.
At a time when the EFI lurches from one controversy to another and has been the butt of ridicule, there are still riders winning laurels. If last year Fouaad Mirza won the Arjuna Award for his exploits in the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, this time modest and unassuming Armyman Ris Anant Ajay Sawant, a well-known name in tent -pegging, clinched the Arjuna Award.
At the virtual awards function held on Saturday at the Vigyan Bhawan, Anant was all smiles and his trademark twirled up moustache stood out as his name was read out among the award winners.
Dressed smartly, the 61 Cavalry JCO won an award in equestrian, a sport which has been identified with the Indian Army. The big surprise, though, is Anant’s name was proposed not by the petty-minded EFI but the Services Sports Control Board (SSCB).
If the celebration for him was muted in the Capital, the Armyman’s village in Sateli Bhedshi, District Sind Durg (Maharashtra) was full of joy. “There were banners put up in my village for this award won by me. They have been rejoicing and that makes me even more happy,” Anant told delhiletsplay.com. He says the villagers are waiting for him to come home soon so that they can celebrate further.
As captain of the Indian tent pegging team, he has been a consistent performer, winning medals in the National level and also World Cups abroad. Consistency has been his fort and he holds his teammates in high esteem.
“I am grateful to SSCB for forwarding my name for the Arjuna Award. This award means a lot to me . I feel that years of my hard work has finally been recognized. I am grateful to officers like Col Rajesh Pattu (Arjuna Awardee), Col Ravi Rathore (Arjuna Awardee) and Col Rohit Dagar for their constant encouragement. I am fortunate that I jointed 61 Cavalry, a regiment , which is the most decorated unit of the Indian Army in sports. My regiment now have 12 Arjuna Awardees and one PadmaShri winner,” he said.’
It is very interesting how Anant, who has won multiple medals in the World Championship, found out his name was not forwarded by Equestrian Federation of India. The grapevine says the EFI chose to recommend names of other riders who had far less credentials.
At a time when the selection committee of the National Sports Awards has come in for huge criticism, Anant Ajay Sawant got the nod on the basis of his performances. Asked what he would do with the cash award given, he said he would save it for his children. “I have two sons who study in Army Public School. This money is for their future,” said the modest Anant. It remains to be seen if the EFI, which also gives cash awards to its Arjuna Award winners, rewards the 45-year-old JCO.