Parul Parmar takes small, laboured steps and speaks haltingly. Shy to the point of being self-effacing, it came as a surprise that the 36-year-old had won two badminton world titles in 2007.
At the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Saturday, the polio-stricken shuttler from Gandhinagar drew maximum applause as she received the Arjuna Award in the Paralympic category from President Pratibha Patil.
“After I was struck with polio at age three, doctors prescribed me exercises. With my father being a state-level shuttler, I started accompanying him and my elder sister to the badminton court. Soon, success started coming my way and in 2007 I won both the singles and doubles world titles,” Parul said.
Pointing at Saina Nehwal, India's top woman shuttler and also a recipient of the Arjuna, who stood a few metres away crowded by autograph seekers, Parul said: “I pray that she achieves her dream of becoming the No. 1 shuttler in the world.”
Lauding Parul's efforts, Saina said: “Parul's achievements are indeed commendable. I have met her a couple of times but never interacted with her. The Arjuna is a just reward for her achievements.”
Even as the sportspersons lined up for the customary photograph with the President, the common thread binding them was self-belief.
For archer Mangal Singh Champia, who was scouted from the remote Asura village in Singhbhum district by Sports Authority of India official Narasimha Rao, life has been all about unflinching determination.
“Had Rao sir not found me, I wouldn't have been here representing the country at the Olympics. I have made full use of the one opportunity that came my way,” Champia said.
The secret behind double-trap shooter Ronjan Sodhi's success too is self-belief. “People have asked me if I've received the Arjuna a bit late. But my self-belief always told me that I would get it sooner or later,” said the Delhi-based marksman who had equalled the world record in Belgrade last year on way to the World Cup gold. “Remember your strength and success will follow,” was the champion marksman's mantra.
A double for the Tatas
It was a first in the history of the sports awards and Tatas bagged a grand double. With the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Awards being instituted for the first time, it didn't come as a surprise that the steel major bagged two out of three awards presented on Saturday.
Thanks to their community-based programme, the Tatas received the award for the “Establishment and Management of Sports Academies of Excellence” and “Community Sports —Identification and Nurturing of Budding Talent.” Little wonder, the MD, Tata Steel, B Muthuraman was all smiles.