Opinion: Why leave motorsport out of the Arjuna Award?

It was another frustrating day for Indian motorsport when the Arjuna Awards list was announced.

Two-time and defending Asia-Pacific rally champion Gaurav Gill was overlooked yet again for India’s highest sporting honour.

Gill has been nominated more than once and the rallyist expressing disappointment is perfectly understandable. At present, no one in India deserves it more for motorsport than him.

His nomination was sent and that is as far as the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India can probably go. Whom to give it to is finally the prerogative of the panel that decides.

The Union Sports Ministry has recognised the FMSCI as the governing body for motorsport and Gill was the undisputed choice in motorsport. So, where are things going wrong?

It obviously looks like the authorities are not well-versed that his achievement is significant. By overlooking motorsport and not recognising his APRC titles, it is, somewhere, hindering the growth of the sport.

It is true that motorsport is very different from an Abhinav Bindra winning gold in shooting or PV Sindhu bagging silver in badminton. It is not the traditional kind of sport, but it does not mean drivers and riders should not be considered for the Arjuna.

For instance, Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok should have instantly been conferred the award as they have raced in nothing but the top level of motorsport. For them to get there required a gargantuan effort, let alone produce great results.

Giving cricketers the Award because it is the top sport in India is fine. But, motorsport is the most watched sport after cricket and football in India. By that logic, motorsport should be a priority for the Sports Ministry.

A common misconception is that motorsport is just for the rich. But there is nothing further from the truth. There are several cases in which mechanics or sons of mechanics have had decent careers, much like caddies becoming good golfers.

A driver or rider has to work incredibly hard, physically and mentally. This is a high-performance sport. If a driver’s neck or upper body is not strong enough, he or she will be no good. It is simply not about getting strapped up and stepping on the throttle. It takes years to build yourself up to be competitive.

Somebody who has gone through the grind in motorsport should not be denied while a sportsperson in another discipline gets rewarded.

Unlike before, when there was the chaos of the Motorsports Association of India and FMSCI, things are very clear now. After having recognised FMSCI as the governing body for motorsport, it defies logic to not give the Arjuna to someone who deserves it.

Hopefully, this will be the last year a driver has to be frustrated at his achievements not being recognised.

An Arjuna Award to a driver is recognition like no other. It will give more credibility to the sport.

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Series Indian Rally
Article type Commentary