File image of Arjuna Award trophy (TOI photo)
NEW DELHI: An unprecedented eight para-sports personalities will receive the National Sports Awards, including the Khel Ratna to Paralympics gold medallist Mariyappan Thangavelu, virtually on August 29.
Mariyappan becomes only the third Indian para-athlete to be awarded the Khel Ratna award, the country’s highest sporting honour, after former Paralympic medallists Devendra Jhajharia and Deepa Malik.
While Para-athlete Sandeep Chaudhary, para-shooter Manish Narwal and para-swimmer Suyash Jadhav have made it to the list of 27 Arjuna awardees announced by the Sports Ministry on Friday.
With the latest addition, the number of para-athletes winning the Arjuna awards has reached 30 and altogether a total number of 47 National Sports Award winners from the Para-sport fraternity since its inception in 1961.
Para-badminton coach Gaurav Khanna, who has been the reason behind the meteoric rise of Indian para-badminton globally over the years, has finally found his name in the final list for this year’s Dronacharya Award along with four others.
Indian para-powerlifting founder and national coach Vijay Munishwar has been included in the list for the Dronacharya Lifetime award for his services to the sport.
Among the Dhyan Chand awardees, J Ranjit Kumar and Sathya Prakash Tiwari have been named in the list of 15.
“These recognitions are a big motivation and boost towards the Paralympic Movement in the country. And it has come at the right time to motivate our athletes and coaches to work harder towards their Paralympic dreams. My heartiest congratulations to all the award winners,” Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) President, Deepa Malik said in a release.
The 26-year-old Mariyappan came into the limelight when he won the gold medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in men’s high jump T42 category before adding the bronze at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai last year.
Already an Arjuna and Padma Shree awardee in 2017, the recognition will add fillip to his preparations for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Chaudhary, who won India’s first medal at the Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games with a world record, went on to become the world champion bettering his own record in men’s javelin F64 category at Dubai 2019. He is one of India’s strongest prospects for winning a gold at the Tokyo Games.
Narwal, 18, will become only the second para-shooter to get the Arjuna after Naresh Kumar won it in the year 1997. The award will surely add to the teenager’s motivation who has already created a buzz with his sharp shooting skills winning 19 national and 17 international medals in the last three years.
Besides, he has broken world records nine times and has won three bronze medals at the world championships last year.
Meanwhile, Jadhav is the only Indian para-swimmer to have achieved the ‘A’ qualifying mark for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio in S7 category. He is also a two-time gold medallist at the IWAS World Games.
National Sports Awards 2020 winners from Para Sport fraternity:
Khel Ratna: Thangavelu Mariyappan (para athletics)
Arjuna Award: Sandeep Chaudhary (para athletics), Manish Narwal ( para shooting) and Suyash Jadhav (para swimming)
Dronacharya Lifetime award: Vijay Munishwar (para powerlifting),
Dronacharya award: Gaurav Khanna (para badminton)
Dhyan Chand award: J Ranjit Kumar (para athletics), Sathya Prakash Tiwari (para badminton).