Odisha On Top: Arjuna Awardees Who Brought Sports Stardom To State

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Bhubaneswar: Para shuttler Pramod Bhagat is the eighth sportsperson from Odisha to have been conferred with Arjuna Award. He received the prestigious award from President Ram Nath Kovind at a special ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi on Thursday evening.

PROUD MOMENT: Para-badminton World Champion from Odisha Pramod Bhagat receiving Arjuna Award from President Ram Nath Kovind in New Delhi on Thursday. He is the eight sportsperson from Odisha to be conferred with the prestigious award.

A native of Bargarh, Bhagat had recently won two gold medals – men’s singles and men’s doubles – at the BWF Para-Badminton World Championships.

Arjuna Award, instituted by the government in 1961, is given to sportspersons for their consistent outstanding performance for four consecutive years. The awardees are felicitated with a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh, a bronze statuette of Arjuna of Mahabharata with bow and arrow, and a scroll.

Odisha, which has become a major venue for hosting international sporting events in the recent past, has produced numerous prayers of national and international repute.

Here’s the list of seven other Arjuna awardees from the state:

K Ravi Kumar 

The 30-year-old Odisha lifter had emerged as one of the national heroes during the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010 by winning a gold medal in the 69 kg category. Unfortunately, Ravi Kumar was out of action after injuring both his knees during the 2014 Asian Games. But in February this year, the two-time Commonwealth Games medalist was back in the ring and claimed the national title in the 89 kg category. A native of Berhampur, he was spotted by his trainer while practising body building at a club, which changed the course of his life. He won three gold medals in 2009 Commonwealth Game held at Penang, Malaysia. Then in 2010, he won three gold medals in New Delhi Commonwealth games. In 2011, he won three bronze medals in senior weightlifting championship at Tongling, China. He was the silver medalist in the 77 kg category at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He was nominated for Arjuna Award in 2011. He was the second weightlifter from Odisha to receive the prestigious award after Bijaya Kumar Satapathy.

Bijaya Kumar Satapathy

Bijaya was conferred with the prestigious award in 1982. He too hails from Berhampur. He was a national champion in weightlifting for five consecutive years from 1977-78 to 1982-83. Satapathy bagged the second position in 1980-81 Commonwealth Games at Auckland in New Zealand and a bronze in Asian Championship at Nagoya in Japan in 1981-82. He also clinched a gold medal in the Mini Commonwealth Games, 1981, and a silver medal in the Commonwealth Games in 1982, both held at Brisbane, Australia. Satapathy was adjudged the best weightlifter of India at Cochin in Kerala during 1981-82.

Hockey is the other sports in which Odisha has produced champions and three Arjuna awardees.  

Dilip Tirkey

A former hockey player who captained Team India, he was known for his penalty corner hit. He was considered among the best defenders of his generation. He made his debut in 1995 against England. He donned India colours in three Olympics, three World Championships (1998-2006, captain in Monchengladbach), four Champions Trophy events (1996-2004), three Asian Games, including the one in 1998 where India won the gold in Bangkok, three Asia Cup Championships from 1999 to 2007 and the Commonwealth Games in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur. He has a total of 412 international caps. He announced his retirement from international hockey on May 2, 2010. He was conferred with Arjuna Award in 2002 and Padma Shri in 2004.

Jyoti Sunita Kullu

A former India captain, she led the country to an Asian Games bronze at Doha and was part of the silver medal winning team at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006. A native of Sundargarh, she was first selected for Indira Gandhi Women Hockey Tournament in 1996. She was the highest scorer in the 2002 Champions Challenge held at Johannesburg, South Africa. She netted five goals in six matches. She was part of the gold-winning Team India at the Commonwealth Games held in England. She was conferred with the Arjuna Award in 2007.

Ignace Tirkey

A midfielder, he had also captained the Indian hockey team. Ignace made his debut for the national side in February 2001 against Belgium at Akbar el Yom Tournament in Cairo. He was in the national team that participated in the Athens Olympic in 2004, where India finished seventh. Ignace will always be remembered for his incredible goal, which he hit between Pakistan’s ace striker Sohail Abbas’s legs in the final minutes of the 2003 Asia Cup to give India the winning lead after both teams were tied at 2-2. A lethal striker, he helped India win the finals in the Muruguppa Gold Cup in 2011 with his golden goal. He led India in the 2006 Pakistan Test Series and 2006 Commonwealth Games (Melbourne). He received Arjuna Award in 2009 and Padma Shri in 2010.

Rachita Mistry (Panda)

A native of Rourkela, she entered the sprinting arena with the dream to become India’s fastest woman. This passion made her to take admission in a sports hostel in Cuttack at a very young age. In 1995, Rachita got married to a fellow athlete and moved to Maharashtra. She conceived soon after and delivered a girl in March 1996. Though the news of her pregnancy ahead of the Asian Athletics Championships initially rang alarm bells for this promising runner, it did not stop her from pursuing her dream. Many of Rachita’s biggest athletic landmarks came after childbirth. In May 2000, she broke the 100 metre national record held by her idol, PT Usha. Rachita’s 11.38 second timing remained unbroken for 16 years until Dutee Chand, another Odia, set a new record of 11.33 sec in 2016. Mistry retired after the 2002 Asian Games in Busan. In 1998, she was conferred Arjuna Award for her contribution to Indian athletics.

Minati Mohapatra

She is the first Odia to get the Arjuna Award in 1980. At the age of 15, she was equally good in athletics and cycling, a relatively lesser known sports discipline at that point of time. However, she choose cycling and a medal in 1970 National Games marked the beginning of an illustrious career. She was the undisputed National Champion from 1972 to 1979. After retiring from active competitive cycling in 1980, she devoted her time and experience for promoting cycling as a sporting event in Odisha. She was  conferred with “Biju Patnaik Award” for life time achievement in promotion of sports & games.

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