Devendra Jhajharia on Monday became the first para athlete to receive the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian award. The 40-year-old javelin thrower received the prestigious award from President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Jhajharia is a multiple-time Paralympics medal winner. He won his maiden gold medal during the 2004 Paralympics in Athens and his second Olympic gold at the Rio Games in 2016. At the Tokyo Olympics, he won a silver medal. Jhajharia competes in F46 events in the Paralympics and was among the four Paralympic medallists to be conferred with the Padma awards this year.
Tokyo Paralympics double medallist shooter Avani Lekhara received the Padma Shri for her excellent performance last year. Lekhara won a gold medal in the 10m air rifle standing event and a bronze in the 50m rifle 3 positions event.
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Sumit Anil and Pramod Bhagat were the other Paralympic stars to be conferred with the honour.
The fact that his award was significant for para sports was not lost on Jhajharia.
“This is the first time a para athlete has got the Padma Bhushan, and I thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi for this. Now I will have more responsibility towards the country, to win more medals for India. To the youth, I will say work hard. One minute of work will not get you anything. I have worked hard for the past 20 years, 2002 was the first time I won a gold medal,” he said.
Lekhara tweeted: “Honoured and grateful to be awarded the Padma Shri. This award is a testament to not only my efforts, but the sacrifices of my family and the support of everyone involved in my career helping me achieve all I have. I look forward to representing the country with the same passion!”