Sports minister: 'Paralympians will be considered for Khel Ratna'

Sports minister Vijay Goel, after visiting Pullela Gopichand's badminton academies in Hyderabad, said Paralympians will be considered for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award from next year.

khel ratna, devendra jhajharia, paralympics

Devendra Jhajharia, who won a Paralympic gold medal, can receive the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award next year.   -  AP

Sports minister Vijay Goel said that Paralympians will be considered for the Rajiv Khel Ratna Award from next year.

The sports minister was here to visit national badminton coach P. Gopichand's academies. During a media interaction, he asked Olympic silver-medallist P. V. Sindhu if she would prefer the Khel Ratna award over an Olympic medal. Sindhu chose the former.

“The government is determined to give a new direction to sports and we will put in place a long-term plan of action very soon,” Goel said about the sports ministry's review of the Rio Olympics.

“We are making an in-depth study of the report and making a serious introspection on the post-Rio Olympics scenario,” the minister said, “We are thankful to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for all the support being extended to the sports ministry.”

“With regard to Sports Authority of India centres, a conscious effort is on to upgrade the facilities in all the major centres though there cannot be specific plans for a particular centre."

“I can tell you we need more Gopis to produce more Sindhus. If we can find 20 Gopis we can change the sports scene in the country itself,” Goel said.

“I must say that I am really glad that I have visited two academies today, which are world class and have such an excellent administrative set-up in place,” he said, “Credit should go to Gopi’s wife Lakshmi and to his mother (Subbaravamma).”

“India needs more such academies. Next month we are launching a portal – sportstalentsearch.com – on which all the athletes from juniors to seniors can upload their achievements with even the coaches giving all the details about their achievements,” the minister said.

“Then, based on merit, we will try to accommodate the talented in academies in respective disciplines for more organised training and exposure," he added.

Gopichand thanked Goel for being the first sports minister to visit his academy and recalled “unprecedented support” the athletes got before, during and after the Rio Olympics. “I reiterate that all the tweets from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Games have been a huge source of inspiration,” he said.

“It is a great coincidence that the Goel sir has visited our academy on the birthday of the Prime Minister,” Gopi said.

The minister felicitated Gopi on behalf of the Telangana Sports Journalists Association (TSJA) for his outstanding contribution to Indian sport.

The TSJA also felicitated P. V. Sindhu, athletics coach Nagapuri Ramesh (on being conferred Dronacharya Award) and Gopi’s mother on the occasion.