Paralympic silver-medallist Deepa Malik became the first Indian woman para-athlete and the oldest to be conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award but training commitments kept co-awardee Bajrang Punia away from the ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Malik, who won a silver medal in the shot put F53 category in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, was joint winner of the top honour with Asian and Commonwealth Games champion Punia, who is in Russia to prepare for the upcoming World Championships in Kazakhstan.
World Championships bronze-medallist shuttler B Sai Praneeth, woman cricketer Poonam Yadav, Asian Games gold-winner heptathlete Swapna Barman, footballer Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, two-time world silver-medallist boxer Sonia Lather, Asian Games silver-medallist equestrian Fouaad Mirza, motorsports ace Gaurav Gill and Kabaddi captain Ajay Thakur were among the 19 sportspersons who received the Arjuna Award from President Ram Nath Kovind .
Prominent absentees from the event apart from Punia, were cricketer Ravindra Jadeja, Asian Games gold-medallist shot-putter Tejinder Pal Singh Toor, and silver-winner quartermiler Mohammed Anas, all of who were picked for the Arjuna award this year.
Besides the Khel Ratna and Arjuna awards, the President also gave away Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand awards to coaches, the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure awards, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy and Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar.