India’s highest sporting honour Khel Ratna Award, which was named after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, was rechristened in the honour of hockey wizard Dhyan Chand following the admirable performance of both men’s and women’s hockey teams in the Tokyo Olympics.
The announcement came a day after men’s hockey team won a historic bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. It was India’s first medal win in hockey at the Games since the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
Dhyan Chand, a three-time Olympic gold medallist, is considered the country’s greatest hockey player. His birthday, on August 29, marks the National Sports Day when the National Sports Awards are presented each year.
In fact, the change of name for Khel Ratna was suggested by the Committee for review of Sports Awards and Special (Cash) Award Scheme, constituted by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in February 2019.
Dhyan chand was considered as a wizard or magician of the game. He was the chief protagonist as India won three consecutive Olympic hockey gold medals — Amsterdam 1928, Los Angeles 1932, and Berlin 1936.
During the 1936 Berlin Games, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler was so impressed with Dhyan Chand’s play that he offered him German citizenship and the post of Colonel in his country’s Army, a proposition the Indian ace refused. Dhyan Chand was the captain of the Indian hockey team in Berlin Olympics 1936. In the final, facing host Germany, Dhyan Chand himself scored thrice as India thrashed the Germans 8-1 to clinch the gold.
Chand played his final international match in 1948, scoring more than 400 goals during his international career. He was awarded India’s third highest civilian honour of Padma Bhushan in 1956.