V Devarajan, one of the 14 members of the jury for the first ESPN India Awards, on his voting choices:
I think there were some really tough choices to make, so it was quite a tricky job being on the jury. Just the way Kidambi Srikanth has been playing over the past one year I think has been outstanding so he was my choice for Best Male Sportsman of the Year. Gaurav Bidhuri was the second man on my list for that creditable World Championship medal. Among women, PV Sindhu and the number of big-event medals she's brought back was the biggest reason for my vote.
For Comeback of the Year, Mary Kom was my most definite pick. I know of her dedication in training, even after marriage, three kids and becoming a Rajya Sabha MP.
For a boxer, maintaining weight is one of the biggest challenges. But Mary has been remarkable in that aspect even after motherhood. She's extremely focused and gritty. I'm a father of one daughter myself and boxing was a sport I introduced to her as a kid. I've seen how hard it is for girls to sustain themselves in the sport. I've seen her go through it and I eventually had no choice but to switch her to a less physically taxing sport. Now, she plays table tennis. As part of the 2009 Khel Ratna jury, I fought a lonely battle in favour of Mary Kom being awarded. There were two Beijing Olympic medalists - Sushil Kumar and Vijender Singh in the fray. Mary hadn't won an Olympic medal yet then and I had to convince everyone else on the panel about how a World Championship medal is also a massive achievement. And she had won four of them by then. The chairman of the panel Indu Puri eventually agreed with me and that's how we decided that all three of them should get the award.
Sometimes as sportspersons, we're often so caught in the moment that we don't realize the magnitude of what we've achieved immediately. I remember after I won a bronze at the 1994 World Cup in Bangkok, my coach ran up to me teary-eyed and asked if I knew what I'd done. I obviously had no clue that I was only the second Indian (after Zoramthanga) to win that medal.
So, awards like these are always a welcome reminder for athletes of what their achievements mean, how far they've come and what more remains to be done.
(As told to Susan Ninan)
Venkatesan Devarajan: Winner of the bronze at the 1994 Boxing World Cup in Bangkok, Devarajan was India's first World Cup boxing medallist outside the country. A multiple-time national champion, he is currently a coach and one of the best boxing analysts in India.