Anju Bobby George, one of the 14 members of the jury for the first ESPN India Awards on her choices in voting
For me, Viswanathan Anand was the clear winner for the male 'Sportsman of the Year' award. To come back from some really difficult years and win a world title, and that too at his age, I think was simply outstanding. While the rest of the nominees in the category also had some stellar achievements, I chose the level of competition as the yardstick. I wouldn't think it's fair to compare Kidambi Srikanth's Super Series wins to Anand's world title. A chess world title can only be evenly matched by an Olympic or World Championship medal in badminton. To think that Anand is the only world champion India has ever produced in chess makes it even more remarkable.
It was a slightly easier choice in the women's field. PV Sindhu's World Championship silver medal got her ahead of everyone else. Saina Nehwal too was in close contention. I think a lot of thought went behind the nominee list so at no point while going through the categories and names did I feel that anyone deserving had been left out.
This is after the cutoff of the awards period, but the athlete that really caught my eye recently was gymnast Aruna Reddy who won India's first-ever individual medal at the World Cup.
When I look back at the awards I've won, the most cherished-ones are the Khel Ratna and Padma Shri which I won in the 2003-04 period. There's a reason why both were special apart from being state honours. Both of them, as well as the Arjuna award that I won were presented to me by someone I've always admired greatly, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. For athletes, an award is a huge reassurance that all the hard work they're putting in matters. It motivates you to get out of bed and push yourself harder every morning.
As told to Susan Ninan
Anju Bobby George: India's most successful athlete of the 21st century so far, long jumper Anju Bobby George was the first Indian to win a medal at a World Athletics Championships in Paris 2003. Two years later, she won gold at the World Athletics Final in Monte Carlo 2005, to go with her Asian Games and Asian Championship gold medals, and is still the national record-holder in the event. She is currently involved in the government's sports promotion campaigns and heads the Target Olympic Podium Scheme.