Athlete gets Padma award for showing the way, promoting para-sports
KY Venkatesh, 51, in 1994 represented India in the International Paralympic Committee world championship in Germany and in a stadium where the national hockey team had won gold. “It was so motivating and inspiring to be there in national colours,” said Venkatesh, who has achondroplasia, a condition that leads to dwarfism. He stood tall among the greats who had graced the same spot before him in blue. “Back then there was no proper government sponsorship and we had to fight hard to get anyone to hear our requirements.”
The challenges notwithstanding, Venkatesh won his first gold for the country in the shot put in 1999 in Australia.
The para-athlete from Bengaluru on Monday was conferred with the Padma Shri for his contribution to sport and its development.
Venkatesh’s father was an ayurvedic doctor and mother homemaker. Venkatesh is the youngest among their six children. He says his family has always stood firmly behind him and encouraged him to strive harder that pushed him into a local sports event in Mysuru for the first time in 1993.
Despite the challenges, Venkatesh has never looked back since and won medals for India in Badminton, shot put, javelin, discus throw, and other athletics.
Venkatesh and his friends were also instrumental in highlighting the inadequate support for differently-abled athletes in the country when they first began a para-badminton tournament in Bengaluru.
“The courts were on the first floor and there were no ramps,” he said. He added their journey has been fraught with hurdles in a cricket-obsessed country.
Since then, para-badminton athletes have followed in his footsteps and won several laurels for India.
“Count ability, not disability,” said Venkatesh, who works in a private logistics company. He added that para-athletes need encouragement and not compassion to strive to unlock their potential in sports and other fields.
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