Millennium Post

Paralympian Jhajharia, Sardar Singh recommended for Khel Ratna

Devendra Jhajharia on Thursday became the first paralympian to be recommended for India's highest sporting honour — the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna — along with celebrated hockey player Sardar Singh.

Javelin thrower Jhajharia, the first Indian to win two Paralympic gold medals, was the first choice of the selection committee, headed by Justice (Retd) C K Thakkar.
The committee has picked 31-year-old midfielder Sardar as its second nominee for the top honour and has suggested that both Jhajharia and Sardar be considered for the award.
The 36-year-old Jhajharia's two gold medals came in the 2004 Athens Games and last year's Rio Paralympics and he set new world records on both the occasions. He also won a gold medal at the 2013 World Championships.
"I should have got this award 12 years ago when I won gold at the Athens. I don't know why I did not get it then but I want to thank the ministry for finally acknowledging the hard work now," Jhajharia said from Jaipur.
"It's been a long journey. When you get an award it means that government is recognising your hard work and achievements. I feel proud and now there will be more responsibility," Jhajharia, who will next compete at the Asian Games, said. "It's first time I am celebrating with my family. It's big for me since I have always been away from my family at tournaments abroad. Today I am at home when this big news has come."
Former captain Sardar, on the other hand, has been a constant in India's fast-improving standing in world hockey.
The 31-year-old, regarded as one of the best mid-fielders in the world, became the youngest player to captain the Indian hockey team when he led the side at the 2008 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. A recipient of the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India in 2015, Sardar has two Asian Games medals -- gold in 2014 Incheon and bronze in 2010 Guangzhou.
He also has two Commonwealth Games silver medals and was named in the International Hockey Federation's All-Star team twice in 2010, 2011.
"My hard work for the last 15-20 years has paid off. It is the biggest of all sporting honours and the credit for that goes to my teammates because without them I couldn't have achieved what I have," Sardar said.
Sardar's name became a topic of debate during the meeting today due to the sexual harassment allegation levelled against him by an Indian-origin British hockey player. However, his sporting achievements were hard to ignore for the committee. Whether both Sardar and Jhajharia get the award or either of the two is picked, would be decided by the Sports Ministry in the next few days.
Jhajharia also lauded government's decision to include para-athletes in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).
"For the first time, para-athletes were included in the TOPS before Rio Games and it helped greatly in preparations. I could train in Europe and it made a difference."
Besides, the awards selection committee recommended 17 names for the Arjuna award.
The list includes men's Test cricket team regular Cheteshwar Pujara and women's team World Cup star Harmanpreet Kaur, Paralympic medallists Mariyappan Thangavelu and Varun Bhati, golfer SSP Chawrasia, tennis player Saketh Myneni and hockey player S V Sunil.
The 29-year-old Pujara, who is playing in his milestone 50th Test in Sri Lanka, scored the maximum runs for India in a single season last year. He tallied more than 1350 runs, surpassing even skipper Virat Kohli. Mariyappan had won the men's high jump (F46) gold medal at the Rio Olympics. Bhati, on the other hand, had claimed a silver in the same event. Myneni is a winner of mixed doubles gold and a silver in the men's doubles at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. Golfer Chawrasia has won back-to-back Indian Open titles, in 2016 and this year.



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