Devendra Jhajharia, the first para-athlete to receive the Padma Bhushan, says the “huge honour” will help change society’s attitude towards people with disabilities and inspire them to strive for excellence.
The multiple Paralympic gold medalist and world champion was nominated on Tuesday for the prestigious Padma Bhushan, the country’s third-highest civilian honour.
Jhajharia won two gold medals at the 2004 and 2016 Paralympic Games and a silver at the Tokyo Games in 2020.
“It’s not just huge for Paralympic sports, but also for the disability community. Society’s perspective towards para-athletes has changed and people have to be happy for them now,’ Jhajharia told PTI Bhasha in an interview.
”For the first time, a para-athlete has been chosen for this honor and I would like to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has a vision for para-athletes and has taken care of their needs.
“I want to thank him on behalf of the entire para community.” In the country’s best show at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, India won 19 medals, including five gold.
Besides Jhajharia, javelin throwers Neeraj Chopra, who won a historic gold medal at the Tokyo Games, and Sumit Antil were chosen for the Padma Shri honor.
Jhajjaria said for javelin throwers this is a great achievement.
“They deserved it. it is a huge honor for javelin throwers. it will inspire young people to practice this sport. Jhajharia, who lost his arm to electrocution aged eight after falling from a tree, said parasports have undergone a sea change over the past two decades.
”The beginning of the journey was full of challenges. People said how much a handicap can play? But now people say, become as Jhajharia will become. In 2004 I had to spend money out of my own pocket to compete, but now we have all the facilities. ”He dedicated this honor to his late father, who passed away in October 2020.
”It was my father’s dream for me to become a great athlete. He sacrificed a lot but, unfortunately, he’s not here now to see it. I dedicate it to him.” Jhajharia won gold at Athens 2004 and Rio 2016. He was unable to compete at Beijing 2008 and London 2012 because his event was not on the Paralympic programme. But with a Tokyo Paralympic medal, Jhajharia became India’s most decorated para-athlete of all time.
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