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Sharmili Mallick

Neeraj Chopra, Pramod Bhagat and Shikhar Dhawan—are the names which will be written in golden letters in India's sports history.
Chopra and Bhagat received the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award 2021 while Dhawan was one among the 35 Arjuna awardees this year. President Ram Nath Kovind gave away the awards at a special function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi on Saturday. 

Chopra made the country proud by winning the first-ever gold in javelin throw at the Tokyo Olympics, 2020 while Bhagat made history by clinching a gold medal in badminton in the recently concluded Tokyo Paralympics.

Dhawan has been making India proud with his outstanding performance in all the formats of cricket.

OTV caught up with the three players who shared their experiences and struggles which brought them glory.

Neeraj Chopra

“The award will encourage me as well as other players to perform well at the international level,” said Chopra after receiving the Khel Ratna award from the President.

On being asked about his connection with Odisha and how the pre-Olympics training in the State helped him in achieving the coveted medal, Chopra said, “Odisha has a very encouraging environment for sports. I had won gold and created a record while participating in the Asian Championships in 2017 at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. During winter last year before the Tokyo Olympics, I had camped at Kalinga Stadium for training. The infrastructure at the stadium is very good and I have many memories related to it,” Chopra stated. 
“Naveen ji has been taking instrumental steps to boost sports in the country and I hope, he will continue doing so. I further hope that players from Odisha will also prosper in the coming days,” he added.

“Make your dreams your passion. Work hard and be determined to achieve whatever you love to do,” said the Olympian in his message to budding sportspersons.

Pramod Bhagat

“The Khel Ratna award conferred to me has paved the way for the growth of sports in Odisha and I hope more youngsters from the State will achieve more Khel Ratnas for the State. I felt very fortunate to have achieved the feat and I am extremely delighted that I could bring glory for the State,” said Bhagat after receiving the award.

Explaining his struggles, Bhagat said, “Positivity and negativity coexist but I don’t worry about the bad things. As I started ignoring negative vibes, I began getting support due to which I was able to achieve the Khel Ratna which is the highest sporting honour in the country,” he added. 

“I am the first player from the State to earn a gold medal in the Paralympics and the only one from Odisha to achieve the Khel Ratna. I believe I have opened the doors for the youngsters of the State and I hope, players and athletes from the State will work hard so that they participate in the Olympics and achieve feats like this,” stressed the Paralympian.

Shikhar Dhawan

Expressing his joys in achieving the award, Dhawan stated, “I feel proud on being conferred with Arjuna Award from the President of India. This is a great achievement for any player and I am happy to realise that my work received such great appreciation. I thank all, including my coaches, friends, teammates and fans who have supported me in my life and career,” the ace batsman added.

“I have been playing since the last 25 years and I cherish all the ups and downs in my journey. My love for work and my passion for cricket always kept me encouraged. I never felt tired when I used to wake up at 5 am and then go for training. I used to play the entire day and started playing under 16 and then 19 and subsequently got selected to the Indian team,” explained Dhawan.

“My parents and relatives were a great support in this and I am thankful to them. Enjoy playing cricket and, at the same time, work hard, dream big and keep growing,” said Dhawan in his message.

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