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With Asian Para Games in mind, senior pros laud 20th National Para Athletics Championships

Bhubaneswar: The four-day long 20th National Para Athletics Championships drew to a close on Thursday with a glittering closing ceremony in the presence of the Paralympic Committee of India President Deepa Malik, the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic medallists Sumit Antil, Yogesh Khatuniya, MoS Faggan Singh Kulaste and others.

The 20th edition of the National Para Athletics saw close to 1200 athletes from across the country flock down to the sports hub of Bhubaneswar, Odisha to make a mark in the Indian para-athletics ecosystem.

While there were countless athletes competing in their first-ever national championships at the Kalinga Stadium and KIIT University grounds, the event also saw quite a few veterans trying to get into their best ahead of the upcoming Commonwealth and Asian Para Games.

“We are expecting to bag around 4 medals at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, while are eyeing an ambitious three-figure mark at the Asian Para Games,” the PCI president Deepa Malik had said to The Bridge ahead of the commencement of the National Championships.

Hosting any event at such a big scale is always a difficult task. It becomes even more so when it is a Para-sport event. From solving the issues of accessibility to ensuring that all athletes are medically classified as per their disability, it is a big challenge to successfully pull of any para-sports event.

Believing the PCI was able to conduct the event in a smooth fashion without any major hiccups are some of the top senior athletes of the country.

The 2020 Tokyo Paralympics silver medallist, Nishad Kumar was elated at the prospect of so many para-athletes converging together for such an event.

“It is so exciting to see so many new athletes coming up and taking para-sports. It is not easy to host a para event at such a big scale, but I think the federation has done a wonderful job. Para-sports in India is only going to get bigger with the Asian Para-Games around the corner,” Nishad said after bagging the T-47 Men’s High Jump title.

The 2018 Asian Para Games gold medallist in Women’s T-11 1500m, Rakshita Raju too echoed the same sentiments.

“We did not have to face a lot of difficulties. So far we have been hosted very well. Be it on the track or back in KIIT University where we are staying,” she said.

The first completely blind Indian athlete to qualify for the Paralympics, Ankur Dhama, maintained that para-sports has grown a lot in India compared to when he started off in 2009 and that the upcoming Asian Para Games will be historical for India.

“Back when I started with para-sports in 2009, there was not much recognition for athletes. But, that has changed. More people now want to be involved with para-sports and more athletes want to win medals for India. The PCI has done a wonderful job over the years and hosting the National Championships in such a big scale during an Asian Games year will certainly help creating an impact,” Dhama said.

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