Rathore lauds para athletes, says they are 'icons of the nation'

Praising the medallists of Asian Para Games, Rathore thanked the athletes for "bringing glory to the country and becoming shining examples for the sporting fraternity."

Union Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore felicitating the medal winners of Asian Para Games.   -  PTI

The smiling faces of the athletes summed up the occasion marking the felicitation function to honour the medal winners of the recently-held Asian Para Games in Jakarta. The athletes were presented with cash awards by the Union Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore at the Ashok Hotel here on Tuesday.

The gold medal winners received a cash award of Rs 30 lakh each while silver and bronze medallists gained Rs 20 lakh and Rs 10 lakh respectively.

Praising their performance, Rathore thanked the athletes for "bringing glory to the country and becoming shining examples for the sporting fraternity." Reminding them of their formative phase in sport, he added, "You have tackled unimaginable challenges with your unflinching spirit. Many would have doubted your abilities when you started the journey and the same people would now be backing you. You are icons of the nation and have beaten them all those who doubted you. I want to assure you we are with you all the while."

The para athletes are awarded the same cash awards as the able-bodied. "We have a Centre of Excellence for you at Gandhinagar now and soon we will be adding four more such centres. There are more goals to be achieved. See you at Tokyo 2020," said Rathore.

Among others present on the dais were Sports Secretary Rahul Bhatnagar, Sports Authority of India Director General Neelam Kapur.

For Sharad Kumar, who won a gold in high jump with a new Asian record of 1.90 metres, it was a “fabulous” moment. “It was historic because the silver and bronze also went to India. I had worked hard for this moment and to me it is an indication for the 2020 Olympics. To me, this was a launching pad and a ray of hope for the Olympics,” said a beaming Sharad.

Sandeep Chaudhary, the javelin gold winner with a throw of 60.01 metres, the honour was a boost for the next step, an Olympic medal. “It is a big step for me. The competition was very tough. The sixth place went to the athlete who had won a gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. I dedicate this medal to my guru (Naval Singh),” Sandeep said.

The Indian para athletes contingent returned home with its largest medal haul of Para Games – 72 medals, which included 15 gold, 24 silver and 33 bronze.