India national football team and Bengaluru Football Club skipper Sunil Chhetri and Aditi Ashok, India's highest-ranked woman golfer, walked away with top honours at the SWAB awards at Taj Vivanta in Bengaluru on Saturday, December 16.
Present among a star-studded gathering were India's highest Test wicket-taker and former captain Anil Kumble alongside India's first individual Olympic gold medalist and chief guest Abhinav Bindra.
"Bangalore holds a very special place in my heart," Bindra said in a typically elegant speech.
"It is in this city that I spent many days of my youth shooting at the SAI Centre and the people of this city, not least its sports journalists, have always been wonderfully welcoming. There is something in the air of Bangalore that makes it special for sports, and I am not just saying that because I have just flown here from Delhi."
I was initialy scared of journalists: Chhetri
Bengaluru FC players and head coach Albert Roca turned up soon after wrapping up a training session ahead of their ISL fixture on Sunday to receive the 'Team of the Year' award.
"When I started off, I was scared of journalists," Chhetri said, to sheets of laughter. "Over time, I recognised the role they played and built a relationship with them. This best sportsperson award is all thanks to the entire BFC team."
MP Ganesh bags Life time Achievement Award
The standing ovation was reserved for MP Ganesh, the former Olympian, who was conferred with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Ganesh, 72, regaled the audience with tales of his formative years as a hockey player, the lessons he implemented from his playing days to his career in sports administration, and the need for government officials, journalists and former athletes to come together to nurture promising sporting talent.
Kumble opens up on Virat Kohli's Team India
Indian women's hockey team coach Harendra Singh presented the 'Coach of the Year' award to Kumble, under whom India won five successive Test series between July 2016 and March 2017. Kumble was gracious as ever in his speech, crediting the team for his recognition.
"I think coaches in cricket don't have too much to say or too much to do. But nonetheless this is an excellent recognition of all the good work that the team did over the past one year and they have continued with their winning ways," he said.
"I'm confident that the team which we have will certainly go on to create history in South Africa and then beyond. That's the confidence I have, and I'm sure the team under Virat certainly has the capabilities to achieve that and continue all the good work they have been doing."
Arjun Maini, Damini Gowda bag Junior Sportsperson awards
Arjun Maini and Damini Gowda won the Junior Sportsperson of the year award in the male and female category respectively. Maini, former SWAB award winner, created history by becoming the first Indian driver to win a GP3 race when he claimed the sprint race in Barcelona, in May. The 19-year-old was also signed by Haas Formula One team as a development driver.
Damini, meanwhile, won five golds in the Junior National Aquatic championships in July 2016 and backed that stellar show with two golds and three bronze medals in the Senior championship a few months later. She was a force to reckon with in the National School Games Championship too, winning two golds and a silver.
K Sriram, a member of KSCA's media staff, was recognised by SWAB as the 'Behind the Scenes' award winner while KBA walked away with the 'Association of the Year' award.
List of award winners
Best sportsperson of the year (Male): Sunil Chhetri
Best sportsperson of the year (female): Aditi Ashok
Team of the year: Bengaluru FC
Coach of the year: Anil Kumble
Lifetime Achievement Award: MP Ganesh
Best junior sportsperson of the year (male): Arjun Maini
Best junior sportsperson of the year (female): Damini Gowda
Association of the year: Karnataka Basketball Association
Behind the scenes award: K Sriram