Paralympic athletes will be considered for the prestigious Khel Ratna awards from next year, Union Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Vijay Goel said on Saturday. “All the Paralympic medallists will be treated at par with other Olympic medallists,” Goel said in Hyderabad after visiting two badminton academies run by Pullela Gopichand, The Hindu reported.
“Paralympic athletes brought a huge honour to the country,” the minister said. “We are proud of them, and they will be rewarded in the same manner like [shuttler] PV Sindhu and [wrestler] Sakshi [Malik].”
The minister further said that the central government will soon put in place a “long-term action plan” to give a new direction to sports in the country, The Times of India reported. He added that the Sports Ministry was seriously introspecting “on the post-Rio Olympics scenario” and was “making an in-depth study” of its review of the recently-concluded Games.
The government will also launch a portal next month where athletes and coaches of all levels can upload the details of their achievements. “Then, based on merit, we will try to accommodate the talented in academies in respective disciplines for more organised training and exposure.”
Goel’s remarks came only days after he refused to comment on the matter, saying there were no policies in place for Paralympians to receive the sporting honour. Indian para-athletes have won four medals – two gold, one silver and one bronze – at the ongoing Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.