The Union Minister for Sports Vijay Goel said that Paralympics athletes would be considered for the prestigious Rajiv Khel Ratna awards from next year onwards.
Speaking to the media after visiting the facilities at the two academies of Gopi Chand, Goel said that it was never an issue (whether to consider them or not).
“I will ask you whether you would prefer an Olympic medal or a Khel Ratna Award” was his counter. Rio Olympics silver medallist P.V. Sindhu, who was sitting next to him whispered, she preferred the medal. “Now you got the answer from the athlete herself,” the Minister said.
“The Government is determined to give a new direction to sports and we will put in place long-term action plan very soon,” Goel said about the general review the Sports Ministry made after the Rio Olympics.
“We are making an in depth study of the report and making a serious introspection on the post-Rio Olympics scenario,” said the Minister. “We are thankful to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for all the support being extended to the Sports Ministry,” he pointed out.
“With regard to Sports Authority of India centres, a conscious effort is on to upgrade the facilities in all the major centres though there cannot be specific plans for a particular centre,” he said.
“I can tell you we need more Gopis to produce more Sindhus. If we can find say 20 Gopis we can change the sports scene in the country itself,” Goel said.
“I must say that I am really glad that I have visited two academies today which are world class and have such an excellent administrative set-up in place,” he said. “Credit should go to Gopi’s wife Lakshmi and to his mother (Subbaravamma),” he said.
“India needs more such academies. Next month we are launching a portal —sportstalentsearch.com — on which all the athletes from juniors to seniors can upload their achievements with even the coaches giving all the details about their achievements,” the Minister said.
“Then, based on merit, we will try to accommodate the talented in academies in respective disciplines for more organised training and exposure,” he said.
For his part, Gopi Chand thanked the Union Minister for being the first Sports Minister to visit the academy and recalled “unprecedented support” the athletes got before, during and post Rio Olympics. “I reiterate that all the tweets from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Games have been a huge source of inspiration,” he said.
“It is a great coincidence that Goel sir has visited our academy which happens to be the birthday of the Prime Minister,” Gopi Chand concluded.
Gopi Chand felicitated
Later, the Union Minister felicitated Gopi Chand on behalf of the Telangana Sports Journalists Association for his outstanding contribution to Indian sport.
The TSJA also felicitated P.V. Sindhu, athletics coach Nagapuri Ramesh (on being conferred Dronacharya Award) and Gopi’s mother on the occasion.