Elated by the record-breaking recommendations of para-athletes for this year’s National Sports Awards, Deepa Malik, the president of Paralympic Committee of India (PCI), feels that her dreams are being realised and it’s heartening to see para-athletes get equal respect and appreciation. The announcement of the national sports awards was delayed in order to consider the performances of para-athletes at the Tokyo Paralympics, held from August 24 to September 5 and India had phenomenal performances at the mega-event. India’s paralympians finished their campaign in Tokyo with an unprecedented 19 medals, including five gold, and signed off 24th in the overall tally — the highest ever.
All five gold-medal winning para-athletes — Pramod Bhagat (Badminton), Sumit Antil (Athletics), Avani Lekhara (Shooting), Krishna Nagar (Badminton) and Manish Narwal (Shooting) — have been recommended for Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, the highest sporting honour of India.
Meanwhile, eight paralympians — Yogesh Kathuniya (Discus throw), Nishad Kumar (High jump) Praveen Kumar (High jump), Sharad Kumar (High jump), Suhas LY (Badminton), Singhraj Adhana (Shooting), Bhavina Patel (Table Tennis) and Harvinder Singh (Archery) — have been recommended for 2021 Arjuna Award.
“Give us an opportunity and we will show our ability. Under the leadership of PM Modi, and all the recent Sports Ministers… Paralympics has been celebrated, para-athletes have been given equal appreciation and respect and I think this is the dream which I had when I started representing India 16 years ago as a para-athlete,” an elated Deepa Malik told IANS on the sidelines of Women in Motorsport commission event.
“I see my dream being realised and I am happy as president of the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI), I can become a little part of the change. We have dominated the awards and the whole world is applauding the champions,” she added.
Malik, the first Indian woman to win a medal in the Paralympic Games, also mentioned that these awards will inspire people with disabilities to take up sports.
“When you see your future in para-sports, when you get respect and recognition in para-sports, when you get job-opportunities in parasports. Naturally, we will have more talent coming forward. My dream is to see India in top-10 medal tally in the world in Paralympics and more the number of para-athletes are there, more we get closer to it,” she said.
Celebrated para athlete Malik will also be a part of an all-women team in the upcoming Nazir Hoosein Memorial Drive. Slated to begin on November 8, the rally will retrace the route of the 1981 Himalayan Rally to pay tribute to Indian motorsport legend, Nazir Hoosein.
She has also been inducted into the Women In Motorsport (WIM) Commission with a view to encourage more women, particularly disabled persons, to take part in the sport. Her involvement with the WIM will also see the commission invite individuals with disabilities to train as marshals and volunteers.
Talking about her involvement, Malik said, “I wanted to join this initiative to change this perception about women and particularly about women with disabilities. I hope this initiative will encourage more and more career options for women in motorsport. There are a lot of people who think that women cannot take up a career in racing or rallies and this step is aimed at changing such perceptions.”