Devender Jhajharia became the first paralympain to be nominated for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, and while he is ecstatic about his nomination, he feels that it has come 12 years too late.
Jhajharia is the only Indian to have won two gold medals at the Paralympic games, the first of which came in the Athens games in 2004, when he also created the world record, and the second one came last year in Rio.
“Firstly I would like to thank everyone who have supported me in my journey. It feels great to be nominated for such an honour, but this should have come 12 years back,” Jhajharia told IANS reporters.
“I would have been happier and more motivated if I was nominated for this award 12 years ago when I won my first Paralympic gold with a world record performance. But as it’s said it is never too late.”
Jhajharia created the world record in the 2004 games, when he recorded a throw of 62.5 metres in the F46 category. The F46 category wasn’t included in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, but was re-introduced in the 2016 games, where Jhajharia broke his own record.
He recorded a distance of 63.7 metres in the 2016 Rio Games.
He thanked the Prime Minister for introducing the Target for Podium(TOP) scheme which provided a lot of inspiration and support for the para-athletes.
“Post 2014-15, para sports is developing gradually in the country today. I want to thank the Prime Minister for inspiring the differently-abled athletes in realising their dreams at the international stage.”
“The credit for my second Paralympic gold goes to the TOP scheme, which has helped all the Paralympians get funds for better training, foreign coaches and most importantly fulfilling their dreams of winning a medal for the country,” Jhajharia added.
Jhajharia had applied for the award in 2004 as well but didn’t quite make it.
“As an athlete my job is to work hard and fetch medals for the country. I applied for the award in 2004 too, but some things are not in my hand,” he said.
He also hoped that this nomination would inspire more para-athletes to work towards bringing laurels for the country.