Paralympic silver-medallist Deepa Malik was conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award by President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, making her the first Indian woman para-athlete and the oldest to be honoured with the award.
Malik, who won a silver medal in the shot put F53 category in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, was joint winner of the top honour with Asian and Commonwealth Games champion Bajrang Punia. While Deepa received the award herself, Punia had to skip the ceremony as he is presently training in Russia for the upcoming World Championships. Further Malik also became only the second para-athlete to win the award after two-time Paralympics gold medallist javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia, who received the recognition in 2017. She was quoted saying, “I am very happy. This whole journey has been more about changing the attitude of people towards disability and the hidden potential in people with disability. I think the award is going to be a huge inspiration to disabled women athletes. It took 70 years for independent India to win a medal (women’s) in Paralympics”.
Twitter was flooded with praises for the shot put athlete and here are a few:
T 2377 –#DeepaMalik .. you made all India proud by winning the Silver at the ParaOlympics .. Such an emotion to see the Tiranga go up !
— Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan) September 12, 2016
These ladies are game changers & have achieved on their own terms!🤗 @vidya_balan @DeepaAthlete @gauharkhan! Hosted d #SavvyWomenEmpowermentAwards !These women have empowered us by showing that nothing is impossible! I salute you! #VidyaBalan #GauharKhan #DeepaMalik #SidK pic.twitter.com/TVsFn47b32
— Siddharth Kannan (@sidkannan) June 19, 2018
— Celina Jaitly (@CelinaJaitly) September 13, 2016
— Tarun Gogoi (@tarun_gogoi) September 13, 2016
— mandira bedi (@mandybedi) September 13, 2016
— Rao Inderjit Singh (@Rao_InderjitS) August 30, 2019
— Shikhar Dhawan (@SDhawan25) September 13, 2016
— Ashwin Ravichandran (@ashwinravi99) September 13, 2016
Heartiest congratulations to #deepamalik on being conferred with highest honour in sports #KhelRatna from our honourable President Ram Nath kovind for your outstanding achievements in Para- Athletics. pic.twitter.com/0s7iYiNX3N
— Madhaw Anand (@MAnandOfficial) August 29, 2019
— Esha Gupta (@eshagupta2811) August 30, 2019
— Anil Rai Gupta (@AnilRaiGupta) August 30, 2019
Apart from Malik and Punia, 19 other sportspersons were conferred with the Arjuna Award, including shuttler B. Sai Praneeth, cricketers Ravindra Jadeja and Poonam Yadav, track and field stars Tejinder Pal Singh Toor, Mohammed Anas and Swapna Barman, footballer Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, hockey player Chinglensana Singh Kangujam and shooter Anjum Moudgil.