Padma Awards 2022: Four Paralympic medalists including multiple medalist javelin thrower, Devendra Jhajharia, Tokyo Paralympics double medallist shooter Avani Lekhara, gold medallist javelin thrower Sumit Antil and gold winning para-shuttler Pramod Bhagat were among the nine sportspersons who were conferred with the Padma awards on Tuesday.
While Jhajharia was honoured with the Padma Bhushan, the second highest of the Padma awards, eight sportspersons including Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Neeraj Chopra apart from Antil, Lekhara and Bhagat were conferred with Padma Shri.
“I cannot express my gratitude in words to be conferred with Padma Bhushan, the second highest Padma award. It is not only a recognition for me but for the whole para athlete community and such awards bridge the gap between para athletes and athletes. I think there will be more responsibility after this award in terms of portraying the role in society as well as country’s progress. It will also motivate me to help more and more players to achieve the same as me,” shared Jhajharia, who was conferred with Padma Shri in 2012 and won his third Paralympic medal in Tokyo.
23-year-old Haryana javelin thrower Sumit Antil, who won the gold medal in the F-64 category with a throw of 68.55 m in Tokyo Paralympics, was earlier bestowed with the Khel Ratna last year. Antil, who had lost his leg in a bike accident, and watched his father Ram Kumar pass away to cancer in 2004, was supported by mother Nirmala since then. Antil dedicated the award to his mother.
“My father worked in Indian Air Force and he would always listen to the news regarding the Sena medals and Padma awards with keen interest. To be conferred with the Padma Shri award is a special moment for me as well as my mother Nirmala. We too got motivated by seeing sportspersons getting Padma awards in the past and I am sure more youngsters will get inspired on seeing me get this award. It’s a huge thing for my village Khewra too as nobody from the village has got any Padma award and this recognition means a lot,” shared Antil while speaking with The Indian Express.
Jaipur shooter Avani Lekhara, who won gold medal in 10M Air Rifle SH-1 category and a bronze medal in 50m 3p SH-1 event at Tokyo Paralympics, had become the second India to win multiple medals at the same Paralympics after Joginder Singh Sodhi won three medals in 1984 Paralympics. Lekhara, who had suffered a spinal injury in a car accident, celebrated the news with her parents at her Jaipur house. “When the whole country recognizes the Paralympic medal in different ways, what more can we ask for? When I was a kid, I had only heard about Padma awards and would watch the ceremony keenly. I remember watching the awards ceremony in recent years and seeing the likes of PV Sindhu and Mary Kom di getting the Padma awards. To get the Padma Shri award is a surreal moment for all of us and I dedicate this award to the youth of this country as well to every person who has played a part in my journey,” shared Lekhara.
Among the other recipients were martial arts master Sankaranarayan Menon Chundayil from Kerala, martial arts coach Faisal Ali Dar from Bandipora in Jammu and Kashmir and Vandana Kataria, member of Indian women hockey team which finished fourth in Tokyo Olympics and former Indian football captain Brahmanand Sankhwalkar from Goa.