India’s top-ranked wrestler in the 65kg category and the first Indian woman to win a Paralympics medal are in line for the country’s highest sporting honour.
Silver medallist at the 2016 Rio Paralympics Deepa Malik, and one of India’s top wrestlers Bajrang Punia have been recommended for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the highest sporting honour in India.
Malik holds the distinction of being the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic medal with her silver-winning performance in the shot put F53 category of track and field athletics at Rio 2016, while Punia is the country’s top-ranked wrestler in the 65kg category. Both athletes were recommended by a 12-member selection committee headed by Justice (Retd) Mukundakam Sharma.
While Malik is busy preparing for her qualification events for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, all eyes will be on Punia as he leads the Indian contingent at the Wrestling World Championships next month.
Apart from the duo, the committee has also recommended as many as 19 athletes for the Arjuna Award while the likes of U Vimal Kumar (badminton), Mohinder Singh Dhillon (athletics), and Sandeep Gupta (table tennis) are in contention for the Dronacharya Award, India’s top recognition for sports coaches.
The Arjuna Award recommendations include the likes of shot-putter Tejinder Pal Singh Toor (2018 Asian Games gold medallist), Mohammad Anas (the 400m national record holder), Swapna Barman (2018 Asian Games gold medallist heptathlete), and Anjum Modgil (the air rifle shooter who has sealed a quota place for the Tokyo Olympics).
Toor trains under Mohinder Singh and the duo has been a hit in the Indian athletics circle with the shot-putter bagging the Asian title at the continental championships in Doha, Qatar early this year.
The national record holder will be eyeing a place at Tokyo 2020 with some quality performances at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in the coming weeks.
The recommendations will be ratified by the central government in the coming days.