NEW DELHI: There are about thirty families which have received two or more prestigious national awards for sports. The sporting family to bag the maximum number of awards is that of the Sodhi brothers. Former Army officers Harinder Singh (Billy) Sodhi and Ravinder Singh (Pickles) Sodhi received the Arjuna Award for Equestrian in 1976 and Polo in 1983, respectively. Later, their loving nephews, Manshar Singh (an alumnus of St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi and two-time Olympian in 1984 and 1996) and Adhiraj Singh (alumnus of St. Columba’s School, Delhi and National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla) went on to win the Arjuna Award for Shooting in 1993 and Equestrian in 1991, respectively. Adhiraj Singh was only 21 when he represented India in the New Delhi Asian Games in 1982, with a seventh place in the show jumping competition being his contribution. He also won five silver and two bronze medals at the national competition between 1985 and 1994.
Chiranjeev Milka Singh with his father
Hockey legend Dhyan Chand was a high-profile player with the most Olympic goals scored by any hockey player. He scored 33 goals in three Olympics – 10 in 1928, 12 in 1932 and 11 in 1936. Dhyan Chand’s son, Ashok Kumar, played four World Cups from 1978-78 and held a record for the most Olympic bronzes in Munich 1972. Dhyan Chand was honoured with the third highest civilian award, Padma Bhushan, in 1956, while one of his sons followed his footsteps and was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1974.
Milkha Singh won four gold medals in two Asian Games in 1958 and 1962. He also won gold in the 440 yards run at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games and the 400m dash at the 1958 and 1962 Asian Games. He is also the only Indian to win an individual gold medal at the two events. He also finished fourth in the 400m race in the 1960 Rome Olympics. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1959. His son, Chiranjeev Milka Singh, a professional golfer, finished 12th in the 2008 European Tour Order of Merit, the best ever by an Indian. He was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1999.
Badminton champion Nandu Natekar won 53 major singles titles, won 43 major doubles and 35 major mixed doubles titles. Nandu Natekar and Gaurav Natekar are another father and son duo in the legacy of the Arjuna Award – the father won the award for badminton in the year of its inception, 1961, while son, Gaurav Natekar, received it 35 years later in 1996 for his skill in tennis.
Other remarkable father and son pairs are Sumant and Gaurav Mishra, Ramanathan Krishnan and Ramesh Krishnan, and Akhtar Ali and Zeeshan Ali, all of whom represented India in the Davis Cup.
Ramanathan Krishnan also won grass-court titles in 1953, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964, achieving an unbroken record for the most number of national championship titles. He was also the winner of three national awards – the Arjuna Award in 1961, the Padma Shri In 1962 and the Padma Bhushan in 1967. His son, Ramesh Krishnan, was also honoured with the Arjuna Award in 1980-81 and the Padma Shri in 1998.
Aashim Mongia, who was awarded the Arjuna Award in Yachting in 1999, belongs to a family where both his father and brother are sailors, specialising in yachting as a sport. Both father and son have been honoured with the Arjuna Award as well. His father, naval officer S.K. Mongia received the award in 1978-79, while Aashim Mongia bagged it in 1999. Aashim also won the bronze medal in the Asian Sailing Championship in 1993, after which he ascended to win silver in the next championship in 1995. He has been awarded the Chhatrapati Award by the Maharashtra Government in 1993 too. Meanwhile, Dr Vece Paes was a member of the 1972 Olympics hockey team, which won the bronze medal, while his son, Leander Paes, won an individual bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the individual men’s tennis event.
Rajeshree Kumari, an alumna of Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi and an Arjuna Awardee in 1968, is the daughter of late Dr. Karni Singh, who was an alumnus of St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi and the first shooter to be awarded the Arjuna Award in 1961. He won gold in the trap individual in 1971 at Seoul with a score of 187/200 in Asian Championships. He won silver in 1975 in Kuala Lumpur with a score of 187/200 in the same event. He also won the first world championship silver medal in Cairo in 1962 in trap shooting. He is the only shooter to have won all the three titles of the Welsh Grand Prix in 1981. He took part in the Olympics at Rome in 1960, Tokyo in 1964, Mexico in 1968, Munich in 1972 and Moscow in 1980.
Maharao Bhim Singh of Kota received the Arjuna Award in Shooting in 1971, two years after his daughter, Bhuvneshwari Kumari received the honours for the same sport in 1969.
Athlete P.T. Usha won 21 medals, including 14 gold, 4 silver and 3 bronze, in five Asian Track and Field Championships between 1983 and 1998. Usha has also won more medals than any other athlete in a single Asian Championship. She demonstrated her talent for track and field at the Asian Championship in 1985, winning five gold medals and a bronze. She received the Arjuna Award in 1983 and the Padma Shri in 1985. Her son, Ujjwal, is a medical doctor with International Olympic Committee (IOC) Certification in sport medicine. Ujjwal won gold at the 100m and 200m events in school but he was never serious about athletics. In fact, he showed that he could be good at football. However, despite being one of India’s greatest athletes, P.T. Usha felt that pushing her son into her sport was not appropriate. There is a significant lesson in this for all parents, guardians, teachers and mentors.
The writer is a former Associate Professor, University of Delhi and Consultant, Limca Book of Records.