Sharath was featured on Friday as the sole athlete for this year’s Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award, the nation’s highest athlete, for his stunning performance at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, where he won four medals, including three gold and one silver. .
“A really proud moment. At this age, it’s great to inspire so many millions of people in different sports at this age. It’s come quite late in my career, but better late than never,” Sharath told PTI.
“For the amount of sacrifice and work I have put in, especially after 2015, the second phase of my career – the Sharath Kamal 2.0 after the hamstring injury, the increase has grown constantly and exponentially. I am really happy and I would like to thank my coaches , thank my support staff.”
“I’m looking forward to the Paris Olympics and this will really encourage me. Of course the CWG and Tokyo gave me the right direction to get into Paris, and hopefully a medal is the best thing that can happen to an athlete’s life he added.
Sharath was one of 42 Khel Ratna aspirants this year, including hockey players Harmanpreet Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Savita Punia and Vandana Katariya.
The Khel Ratna was awarded to an unprecedented five athletes in 2020 and 11 last year.
“The journey has been very long and tedious and I am really enjoying it now. The fact that there is no doubt only one Khel Ratna being given to the committee this year was really proud of that decision,” said Sharath.
Sharath, who won two bronze medals at the 2018 Asian Games, said it was very gratifying to hear that javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, an Olympic gold medalist, acknowledged his achievements.
“When I recently met Neeraj Chopra at an awards ceremony, he was like ‘bhai apne toh kamal kar diya’ (brother, you did miracles). When it comes from athletes like him, it’s a great feeling,” he said.
In addition to the Khel Ratna, the awards committee, chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Judge AM Khanwilkar, also recommended 25 athletes for this year’s Arjuna awards, including Commonwealth Games singles champion Lakshya Sen, and world champion boxer Nikhat Zareen.