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Bhubaneswar: International heptathlete Purnima Hembram and former international footballer Debendra Prasad Singh were conferred Outstanding Sportsperson of the Year award and Lifetime Achievement award, respectively at the Odisha Sports Journalists’ Association (OSJA) Awards 2017-18 in Bhubaneswar today.

Purnima was selected for the prestigious award for her noteworthy performances in 2017. The 24-year-old Mayurbhanj girl clinched Bronze in heptathlon event of the 22nd Asian Athletics Championships held in Bhubaneswar. She also bagged Gold medal in Pentathlon event in the Fifth Asian Indoor and Martial Arts game in Turkmenistan. She has been a constant performer at the national level and is also a part of the Indian athletics squad for the upcoming Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018 (CWG) being held in Australia.

Because of Purnima’s practice sessions ahead of the Commonwealth Games, she was unavailable to receive the award at the ceremony and her father Dukhiya Hembram received the award on her behalf.

Former footballer Debendra Prasad Singh, popularly known as Deba Singh was one of the finest defenders from Odisha. He led the Odisha side in Santosh Trophy Senior National Football Championship. He played for India in one international friendly football game against Myanmar.

“It’s very hard to believe that I was selected for this award and I am really delighted to receive the first ever OSJA Award. I congratulate Purnima as well. This award will certainly inspire her to do well,” said Deba Singh.

Instituted for the first time, the award ceremony was held on the Foundation Day of OSJA. Secretary of Sports and Youth Services department Vishal Dev graced the occasion as the Chief Guest along with renowned weightlifting coaches Pal Singh Sandhu and Hansa Sharma.

Speaking on the occasion, Vishal Dev said, “I have a very good experience with the sports journalists of the State. They have covered sports in a very constructive manner whenever I have tried to do something new for the betterment of the State.”

Both the weightlifting coaches Pal Singh Sandhu and Hansa Sharma highlighted contribution of Odisha towards Indian weightlifting and remembered the performances of Odisha's Bijay Kumar Satapathy and K Ravi Kumar at various national and international levels.

“A jury of OSJA members selected the winners. Purnima represents the country in a very tough discipline of athletics - Heptathlon and she is an all-rounder. Despite her unavailability she was our first choice. Football is a popular game and former footballers like Deba Singh are legends. Apart from being a player and captain, he has also helped his son become the most capped international footballer from the State," said OSJA secretary Sanatan Pani.

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