The Government of India, on the eve of 72nd Republic Day, announced the names of seven sportspersons who will be awarded the Padma Shri in 2021. They are Mouma Das (table tennis), Anshu Jamsenpa (mountaineer), Anitha Pauldurai (basketball), Madhavan Nambiar (PT Usha's coach), Virender Singh (wrestler), and KY Venkatesh (para-athlete).
It is the fourth highest civilian award of the country. There will be a total of 119 recipients of Padma Shri this year.
Mouma Das is a former table tennis player, born and brought up in Kolkata. She is also an Arjuna Awardee, India's second-highest sporting honour, for her contributions to the sport. She won her first international gold medal in 2nd Children of Asia International Sports Games'2000 in Yakutsk. In 2015 Commonwealth Championships, Das won silver in singles, team event, and mixed doubles.
In 2017 Mouma Das and Manika Batra were ranked 12th in the world by ITTF, which is the best amongst 28 Commonwealth countries. In the ITTF Challenge Spanish Open, Das along with Manika Batra reached the finals before bowing out to top-seeded duo of Jihee Jeon and Haeun Yang. They became the first Indian women's pair to finish with a silver medal in an ITTF Challenge series.
At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, she was part of the squad that won Gold medal while defeating Singapore in the final with a 3-1 score. She has won eight gold medals in South Asian Games, the most by a table tennis player. She also has won 19 medals in Commonwealth competitions (Games and Championship), the most by an Indian.
Anshu Jamsenpa is an Indian mountaineer, who holds the record of being the first woman in the world to summit Mt Everest twice in a season, and the fastest double summitter to do so within five days.
She conquered Everest on May 12, 2011, for the first time and made a second summit on May 21. She climbed it again in 2013 with Surjit Singh Leishangthem.
In 2017, she became the first woman to scale Everest twice within five days. This was her fifth summit: the most by an Indian woman.
In 2011, she was conferred the CNN-IBN Young Indian Leader Award for her exploits. She received the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award in 2017 from President Ramnath Kovind. This is India's highest adventure award. In the same year, she received the Tourism Icon of the Year Award by Government of Arunachal Pradesh.
She was also conferred a PhD degree by Arunachal University of Studies for her achievements in mountaineering.
Anitha Pauldurai is a former captain of the Indian women's basketball team. She is the only Indian woman to have participated in nine Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) in her career, spanning 18 years.
Hailing from Chennai, she started playing basketball at the age of 11. However, she liked volleyball and athletics more. But her school basketball coach advised her to take up the sport, which was the turning point in her career.
At 19, she became the youngest-ever to captain the senior team. Anitha won Gold medal in 1st 3x3 FIBA Asian Basketball championship at Doha 2013, Gold Medal in 3rd Asian beach games in Haiyang, China 2012, Gold Medal in South Asian beach games in Sri Lanka in 2011 and Silver Medal in Asian indoor games in Vietnam 2009.
In 2017, she was named as the assistant coach for India U16 basketball team. In 2018, she was awarded a lifetime achievement award by Tamil Nadu government.
Madhavan Nambiar was the coach of the 'Payyoli Express' PT Usha from 1977 to 1990. He first spotted Usha in 1976 during the Payyoli school annual sports meet.
In 1978 at the Quiilon nationals, she won six medals to announce her arrival. An officer of the Indian Air Force, Nambiar used his pension to travel with her pupil until she got a job with the railways.
He knew that Usha's best shot at an Olympic medal was at the 400m hurdles ahead of the Los Angeles Olympics. But unfortunately, she missed out on a podium finish by one-hundredth of a second. Later Nambiar recalled it as the "saddest yet most glorious moment" in her career.
In 1985 Usha won five gold medals and a bronze at the Asian Athletics Championships, and coach Nambiar acted as her physio and masseur as she could not hire their services back then. It was the veteran who ensured that his apprentice remained fit enough to run 11 races in just five days.
Earlier, he had won the Dronacharya award in 1985.
Sudha Singh is a national record holder in 3000m steeplechase.
Singh's first big scalp came at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. She won the 3000m steeplechase event with a time of 9:55:67 and became the first Asian champion as the event was being held for the first time.
In 2012, she qualified for the Olympics with a national record timing of 9:47:70 seconds. However, she finished 13th in heat and did not qualify for finals in the Olympics. In the same year, she was conferred with the Arjuna Award.
In 2014, she won bronze at the Asian Games held in Incheon with a stroke of luck, even after finishing fourth as gold medallist Ruth Jebet was disqualified on account of stepping inside the track before crossing the line.
In 2016, she shattered the national record once again with a timing of 9:26:55s at the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) Diamond League Meet in Shanghai and qualified for Rio Olympics. She finished 30th in the heat in Rio.
She won gold at the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar and a silver at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. The Asian Games in Jakarta was a litmus test for her as most critics had written her off. However, she managed a place on the podium with a time of 9:40:04.
Virender Singh is an Indian freestyle wrestler competing in the 74 kg category. He started training at the age of nine, in Pehwani. His first coach was his uncle Surinder Pehelwan and Dronacharya Awardee Maha Singh Rao and Ramphal Singh.
He first tasted success at the National Rounds of the World Cadet Wrestling Championships in 2002, where he won gold. In 2005, he participated in the Summer Deaflympics in Melbourne where he won the Gold medal.
In 2008, he went to the World Deaf Wrestling Championships in Armenia and has won a silver medal. In 2009, he bagged bronze in the Summer Deaflympics in Taipei, China.
He bettered his performance four years later at the 2013 Summer Deaflympics in Bulgaria, winning the gold medal in the 74 kg category. In 2015, he received the Arjuna award for his outstanding performances in the international arena.
At the World Deaf Wrestling Championships in Tehran, Iran in 2016 he won another gold medal. He is currently employed with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) as a junior sports coach.
KY Venkatesh is a para-athlete from Karnataka, who has been born with achondroplasia-induced dwarfism which limited his height to 4"2'. In 2005, he entered the Limca Book of Records when he won six medals at the 4th World Dwarf Games.
Throughout his career, he has won medals in various disciplines like athletics, basketball, hockey, volleyball, football and badminton. In fact, he has even won a gold in a multi disability championship in Austria for shot put.
During the Open Track and Field Championship in 2004, he won three gold and two silver in shot put, discus throw and javelin. He extended his ambit and in 2006 he won a gold in hockey, silver in football and basketball and a bronze in badminton during the European Open Championship in 2006.
Since his retirement in 2012, he has acted as the secretary of the Karnataka Para-Badminton Association. Venkatesh, 48, has been working in the administration to develop and promote sports amongst various persons with disabilities.