Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik, who recently staged a protest against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and accused him of sexual exploitation and intimidation, were among five athletes nominated on Monday for the BBC Indian Sportswoman Of The Year award.
Others who made the cut were Tokyo Olympics silver medallist weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, ace shuttler PV Sindhu and boxer Nikhat Zareen.
The athletes were short-listed after a panel of jury, consisting of sports journalists and writers, voted for their preferred players, based on their achievements.
The winner will be chosen by a public vote that began on Monday and will continue till February 20 midnight.
The winner will be announced on March 5.
Rupa Jha, the Head of India BBC News, announced that they have introduced a new award category – BBC Indian para-sportswoman of the year.
Ekta Bhyan, the 2018 Asian para Games gold medallist, welcomed the move and emphasised on the need to make the stadiums more accessible to the physically challenged athletes.
“The stadiums and swimming pools should be accessible easily for the disabled athletes. Mental barriers need to be broken, about 60 to 70 percent of disabled population is still restricted to homes. More awareness and work is required at grassroots level,” Bhyan, flanked by London Olympics bronze-winning boxer Vijender Singh, said.
“Sports should be a part of education. Why should disabled athletes start their careers at the age of 15 or 16, sport should be accessible to them much earlier and there should be a comprehensive and non-discriminatory policy for disabled,” she added.
Vijender said the women athletes are two steps ahead of their male counterparts and deserve respect more than the awards. He lamented that national boxing federation does not keep in touch with boxers like him.
“I know about current status of boxing as much you (media persons) know. We are not called for even Nationals or other events. I was asked about Indian boxing by Salman Khan and Rahul Gandhi and told them I don’t know because we are not involved,” he said.
He advised that every village in India should have its own multi-sport stadium to encourage youngsters.