Padma Awards winners: Olympic gold medallist, Grand Slam-winner, Mallakhamb flagbearer honoured

New Delhi: A three-time Olympic medallist, two iconic players of the current generation and the flagbearer of Mallakhamb were among those who have been bestowed the Padma Shri awards for their distinguished service in sports.
Here’s a look at the seven winners who received Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award.
Harbinder Singh (Hockey): An award-winning player, a coach, an administrator and even a government observer, there is hardly a role associated with his beloved sport that the 80-year-old Harbinder Singh hasn’t donned.
Born in Quetta, Pakistan, Harbinder was a member of the 1964 Olympic gold-winning Indian hockey team. He also won the bronze medals in the next two Olympic editions in 1968 and 1972.
The centre forward won the gold medal in the 1966 Asian Games and the silver in the 1970 edition where he served as the captain of the Indian team.
“What could be better than receiving an award. This awards means a lot to me because its is a huge reward for all my sports achievements.
“I have been with hockey for over 6 decades first as a player, as selector, coach, administrator, government observer. I started playing in 1961, I have been serving hockey since as best as I can. Hockey is my identity,” Harbinder told PTI.
Joshna Chinappa (Squash): Joshna is arguably the finest female squash player to have come out of India. Having turned pro back in 2003, her longevity in a physically demanding sport like squash is remarkable and she has no immediate plans to call it a day.
The 37-year-old has won multiple medals at the Commonwealth and Asian Games. The highlights of her illustrious career include reaching the top-10 in the world rankings, an unprecedented women’s doubles gold at 2014 CWG alongside Dipika Pallikal and more recently, the duo won the gold at the World Doubles Championship in 2022.
Her first singles medal at the Asian Games came in 2018 and she also helped India to couple of silver medals in the 2018 and 2014 edition.
“It is a huge honour for sure. Nothing in my life has come too quickly or too late. Getting the Arjuna back in 2013 was wonderful as well. Now getting the Padma Shri is all the more special. It is a huge boost.
“I have huge admiration for Rohan (Bopanna), we come from the same town. Glad it is happening at the same time for both of us. He messaged me and congratulated me. He has always been a big source of encouragement,” said Joshna.
Rohan Bopanna (Tennis ): Bopanna receives the honour on the back of a terrific season. Additionally, the 43-year-old is on the cusp of possibiliy winning his second Grand Slam title after reaching the final of Australian Open.
He is also set to become the oldest tennis player to achieve the world No. 1 ranking in men’s doubles on Monday.
Bopanna is only the fourth Indian to win a Grand Slam trophy, a mixed doubles title he won with Canadian partner Gabriela Dabrowski at the French Open in 2017.
Uday Vishwanath Deshpande (Mallakhamb coach): Deshpande is credited for introducing Mallakhamb, the traditional Indian physical practice, in which a group of gymnasts perform aerial yoga and gymnastic postures using wrestling grips in concert with a stationary vertical pole, to millions around the world. Hailing from Maharashtra, the flagbearer of the sport took Mallakhamb to a wide section of people that includes women, orphans, differently-ables, visually challenged.
“It is not an individual honour for me. It is a revolutionary decision for the sport of Malkhamb, which did not have recognition for so many years as a sport from the central government. Now the government is giving the Arjuna award, the Dronacharya award and now the Padma Shri,” he said.
Satendra Singh Lohiya (Para-swimmer): Hailing from a small village in Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh, Lohiya was born without any disability. But close to a fortnight later both his legs became 70 per cent disabled.
Despite his inability to use his lower limbs, Lohiya scripted history as he was part of an Indian relay team that crossed the English Channel in 2018. He completed the English Channel in 12 hours and 26 minutes, setting a new record.
“I can’t convey my emotions into words. If someone from a small village like me can work hard and the government recognises him, then everyone should believe that they can achieve what they want to,” he said.
Purnima Mahato (Archery coach): Hailing from Jamshedpur, Purnima took up archery coaching in 1994. She served as the Indian women’s recurve coach in three successive Olympics 2008, 2012 and 2016.
She also coached the Indian women’s recurve team that won bronze medals in 2010 and 2023 Asian Games.
“This is a very big surprise for me. To come from a small place of Birsanagar in Jamshedpur and get Padma is unreal,” she said.
Gaurav Khanna (Para-badminton coach): A former national badminton player, Khanna is widely credited for producing the country’s best para shuttlers including Pramod Bhagat, Parul Parmer, Palak Kohli and Manoj Kumar.
A knee injury ended his professional career. Four year’s later, he ventured out into coaching.
“Obviously, it’s a lifetime achievement for any person. When you get something as recognition from the Government of India, it’s really a matter of pride, and I’m so happy to get this.”

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