Deepa Malik, who secured a silver in the shot put F53 category in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award on National Sports Day. Manuel Fredericks, who has had a big hand in India hockey, was awarded the Dhyan Chand award for his achievements while Arup Basak was also given the Dhyan Chand award for his contributions to the growth of Table Tennis in India. Deepa Malik, who became the first Indian woman to win a medal at the 2016 Paralympics Games, has backed out of the next Games in 2020 in Tokyo due to injury and is instead considering taking up swimming. Malik had secured silver in shot put in 2016 Paralympics, but she revealed that shot put and javelin in her disability category were not a part of the next Paralympics, which will be hosted by Tokyo from August 25.
Malik was joint winner of the top honour with Asian and Commonwealth Games champion Bajrang Punia, who is in Russia to prepare for the upcoming World Championships in Kazakhstan. Malik became only the second para-athlete after double Paralympic gold-medallist javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia, who received the recognition in 2017, to have won the prestigious award. At 49, she also became the oldest athlete ever to have claimed the honour. Malik became fourth-time lucky as she was ignored for the award for the past three years, leading her to question and criticise the decision.
"I am very happy. This whole journey has been more about changing the attitude of people towards disability and the hidden potential in people with disability. I think the award is going to be a huge inspiration to women athletes in disability. It took 70 years for independent India to win medal in Paralympic," Malik said.
There were several other prominent sports personalities who were awarded the Arjuna Award. World No. 1 wrestler in 65kg, Bajrang Punia was also awarded the Khel Ratna but he could not accept it as he was out of the country. The Arjuna Award was also awarded to people like Ravindra Jadeja and Poonam Yadav, track and field stars Tejinder Pal Singh Toor, Mohammed Anas and Swapna Barman, footballer Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, hockey player Chinglensana Singh Kangujam and shooter Anjum Moudgil.
As per guidelines, to be eligible for the award, a sportsperson should not only have had good performance consistently for the previous four years at the international level with excellence for the year for which the Award is recommended, but should also have shown qualities of leadership, sportsmanship and a sense of discipline.
Prominent absentees from the event were cricketer Ravindra Jadeja, Asian Games gold-medallist shot-putter Tejinder Pal Singh Toor, and silver-winner quartermiler Mohammed Anas, all of who were picked for the Arjuna award this year. Jadeja is currently on national duty with the Indian Test team in the Caribbean, while Toor and Anas are competing in the national inter-state athletics meet in Lucknow right now.
List of Awardees: Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award: Deepa Malik (para-athletics), Bajrang Punia (wrestling)
Arjuna Awards: Ravindra Jadeja (cricket), Mohammed Anas Yahiya (athletics), Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (football), Sonia Lather (boxing), Chinglensana Singh Kangujam (hockey), S Bhaskaran (bodybuilding), Ajay Thakur (kabaddi), Anjum Moudgil (shooting), B Sai Praneeth (badminton), Tajinder Pal Singh Toor (athletics), Pramod Bhagat (para sports-badminton), Harmeet Rajul Desai (table tennis), Pooja Dhanda (wrestling), Fouaad Mirza (equestrian), Simran Singh Shergill (polo), Poonam Yadav (cricket), Swapna Burman (athletics), Sundar Singh Gurjar (para sports-athletics) and Gaurav Singh Gill (motorsports).
Dronacharya Award (regular category): Mohinder Singh Dhillon (athletics), Sandeep Gupta (table tennis) and Vimal Kumar (badminton).
Dronacharya Award (lifetime category): Sanjay Bhardwaj (cricket), Rambir Singh Khokar (kabaddi) and Mezban Patel (hockey). Dhyan Chand Award: Manoj Kumar (wrestling), C Lalremsanga (archery), Arup Basak (table tennis), Nitten Kirrtane (tennis) and Manuel Fredricks (hockey).