Sportstar Aces Awards 2021: the stars who picked the winners

The first-ever virtual ceremony of the Sportstar Aces Awards was successfully held between April 1 and 4. The annual event had 31 winners, across sporting disciplines.

The winners were selected by a jury headed by World Cup-winning batting maestro Sunil Gavaskar.

The other jury members were Olympic gold medal-winning former hockey player M.M. Somaya, nine-time National badminton champion Aparna Popat, five-time World chess champion Viswanathan Anand, Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning shooter Anjali Bhagwat and veteran Indian footballer Bhaichung Bhutia. “The experience of jury discussions virtually was certainly different, but under the leadership of Mr. Gavaskar, we were able to have a meaningful debate and arrive at our winners this year,” said Bhutia, the newest member of the jury, describing his experience.

“The decision-making process was tough and it’s a good problem to have. Being athletes ourselves, we know the amount of hard work these players put in. Picking one over the other was harder than you would imagine,” said Popat.

“A lot of data was made available to the jury, courtesy the Sportstar and The Hindu team, and it made our jobs easier,” noted Somaya.

“We considered the possibility of sharing the awards for a few categories — it goes to show you the level of competition this time,” said Bhagwat.

Gavaskar listed the categories rewarding corporates, public sector undertakings and States as the hardest ones to adjudicate. “It’s difficult to assess the impact of corporates, PSUs or State on sport if you’re not there in that State or area of work to see it for yourself. So, these three were definitely the hardest to pick,” he said.

With the award process having ended, Anand is optimistic about India sustaining performances at the highest level, especially in 2021 which has a packed itinerary.

“What I’d like to see is India excelling in sports we don’t do much in. The more sports I’m surprised by, the happier I’ll be,” said Anand, who had recused himself from decision-making during the jury meet for the two categories he was nominated for.

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