November 12, 2021 3:31:54 am
Hoardings, adoring crowds lining the streets, flower showers and an awards ceremony: India’s Tokyo paralympians received an extravagant reception from the Uttar Pradesh government in the state’s sports hub of Meerut over the last two days.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Thursday distributed cheques of Rs 2 crore to gold medalists, Rs 1.5 crore to silver medalists, Rs 1 crore to the bronze medal winners, and Rs 25 lakh to the participants.
Seventeen members of the Indian Paralympics squad won 19 medals at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Forty-four of India’s 54 Tokyo Paralympics participants, including medal winners like shooter Avani Lekhara and table tennis player Bhavina Patel, were present at the event venue, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology.
For many of these sports persons, the experience was overwhelming.
Patel, who won a silver at the Tokyo games, said: “This is unbelievable. I was astonished to see myself on huge hoardings the moment I entered Meerut.”
Badminton player Manoj Sarkar, who won a bronze medal, hoped that the honour and visibility they received would encourage more people with disabilities to turn to sport.
Lekhara, 19, who won a gold and a bronze medal, said: “Such an honour in Uttar Pradesh will result in more medals for the country in future.
The sportspersons began arriving at the hotel on Wednesday. There, they were greeted with showers of rose petals and garlanded by the hotel staff and BJP leaders. The 12-km route from the hotel to the event venue was lined by local residents and school children showering petals, with bands playing music. The crossings were decked up with flowers and tricolours.
“I salute all those who have won despite all odds and also those who tried, overcoming challenges,” said Chief Minister Adityanath at the ceremony.
As many as 933 athletes with disabilities, 93 of them women, were taken to Meerut from all 75 districts of the state to attend the ceremony.
Adhana, who is from Haryana, said: “We did not get this kind of reception in our state. The UP government has shown that a sportsman does not belong to any particular state but to the country. We are proud to be here.” Adhana, 39, had won a silver and a bronze at the games. Other athletes, too, had similar sentiments.
High-jumper Sharad Kumar, 29, a former world no. 1, had tears in his eyes when he was accorded a warm reception by the local residents and hotel staff on Wednesday. The bronze medal winner from Bihar’s Muzaffarpur said: “We have been treated on a par with sports persons without disabilities.”
High jump silver medalist Nishad Kumar, from Himachal Pradesh, said: “If someone has full faith in themselves, they can achieve anything. I feel overwhelmed at the reception given by the UP government.”
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