Deepa Malik basks in Khel Ratna glory

New Delhi: Paralympic silver-medallist Deepa Malik on Thursday became the first Indian woman para-athlete and the oldest to be conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award but training commitments kept co-awardee Bajrang Punia away from the ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan here on Thursday.

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 Punia, who is in Russia to prepare for the upcoming World Championships in Kazakhstan.

Malik became only the second para-athlete after double Paralympic gold-medallist javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia, who received the recognition in 2017, to have won the prestigious award. At 49, she also became the oldest athlete ever to have claimed the honour.

World Championships bronze-medallist shuttler B Sai Praneeth, woman cricketer Poonam Yadav, Asian Games gold-winner heptathlete Swapna Barman, footballer Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, two-time world silver-medallist boxer Sonia Lather, Asian Games silver-medallist equestrian Fouaad Mirza, motorsports ace Gaurav Gill and Kabaddi captain Ajay Thakur were among the 19 sportspersons who received the Arjuna Award from President Ram Nath Kovind here.

List of Awardees:

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award: Deepa Malik (para-athletics), Bajrang Punia (wrestling)

Dronacharya Award (regular category): Mohinder Singh Dhillon (athletics), Sandeep Gupta (table tennis) and Vimal Kumar (badminton).

Dronacharya Award (lifetime category): Sanjay Bhardwaj (cricket), Rambir Singh Khokar (kabaddi) and Mezban Patel (hockey).

Dhyan Chand Award: Manoj Kumar (wrestling), C Lalremsanga (archery), Arup Basak (table tennis), Nitten Kirrtane (tennis) and Manuel Fredricks (hockey).

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