WHILE CASH awards worth Rs 15.55 crore were given to the 23 Punjab medallists in Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in a state-level function by Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh, it was a special homecoming for players like triple-jumper Arpinder Singh and hockey player Rupinder Pal Singh. While Arpinder, who belongs to Harsha Chhina Ucha Kila village near Amritsar had opted to play for Haryana in 2015, Rupinder too had shifted his base to Tamil Nadu, where he worked.
“It’s like a new start and homecoming for me. I am grateful to the Punjab Government for considering me for the cash award and getting recognition from the home state is the biggest thing for an athlete,” said 25-year-old Arpinder, who was given a cash award of Rs one crore for winning the gold medal in triple jump in Asian Games. Indian hockey-team drag-flicker Rupinderpal Singh too had opted to shift to Tamil Nadu and played for Indian Overseas Bank. The lanky youngster, who passed out from Chandigarh Hockey and Football Hockey Academy in the late 2000’s, was a member of the Indian hockey team which won the bronze medal in Asian Games. “Better late than never. I always took pride in playing for Punjab but due to constant ignorance, I opted to shift base to Tamil Nadu. Most of us in the Indian hockey team are from Punjab and getting recognition here is a great feeling. We are preparing for next month’s World Cup to be held in Odisha and this recognition will add as a extra motivation for me,” shared Rupinder, who was given a cash award of Rs 50 lakh.
The Punjab Sports and Youth Affairs department had enhanced the cash awards for the international medal winners and the cash award for winning a gold medal in Asian Games was increased from Rs 26 lakh to Rs 1 crore apart from increase in award money for Commonwealth Games medallists.
Shooter Heena Sidhu was awarded with a cash award of Rs 1.75 crore for her medals in Commonwealth Games and Asian Games while Ludhiana badminton player Pranav Chopra, a member of the gold medal winning mixed pair team in Commonwealth Games, was given a cash prize of Rs 75 lakh, which was accepted by his wife Pradnya Gadre. Chandigarh shooter, who won a silver medal in Asian Games, was given a cash award of Rs 50 lakh apart from Amritsar’s discus thrower Navjeet Kaur Dhillon getting Rs 40 lakh for her bronze in CWG. Jalandhar’s weight-lifter Pardeep Singh got Rs 50 lakh for his silver medal in CWG while Ludhiana’s Vikas Thakur got a cash award of rs 40 lakh for his bronze in CWG. Among the Asian Games medal winners, shot-putter Tajinder Singh Toor was awarded with Rs one crore for his gold medal while rowers Swaran Singh Virk and Sukhmeet Smagh also got a cash prize of Rs 1 crore for their gold medal in quadruple sculls event in Asian Games.
“As a player, an increase in cash awards means a lot to us and our families. My father is a farmer and some of the money will be used in paying off the debts and making their living condition better. Regarding the jobs, I feel that all the international medallists should be offered jobs according to the medals won. Rowing has always been the strength of Punjab. We have seen players like two-time Olympian Manjeet Singh. There should be more rowing training centres in the state. If we talk of European countries, they have many professional and university clubs while Punjab has only two such clubs. There are water bodies in places like Bathinda and Ferozepur and more training centres can be opened,” shared Sawarn, who belongs to Dalewala village in Mansa.
While the function saw the presence of Punjab sports minister Rana Gurmeet Sodhi and other ministers including former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, it was also attended by former athlete Milkha Singh and comedian Kapil Sharma and Gurpreet Ghuggi apart former Indian hockey captain Pargat Singh. “We want the state youth to leave things like drugs and pursue sports. Our sports minister Rana Gurmeet Sodhi too is a national-level shooter, though I won the silver medal and he won bronze and he is enthusiast about sports. Out of the 36 players in men’s and women’s hockey teams in asian Games, 22 players from Punjab. I remember in the 1930’s, there were seven Punjab players in Indian team. We want to reach such dominance again in sport and I am sure some of the players will win medals in 2020 Olympics,” said Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh.