Paddler Sharath Kamal receives Khel Ratna at 40 and is aware of his spectacular sporting journey

Indian table tennis superstar Sharath Kamal, 40, received the prestigious Khel Ratna award on Saturday. Although the recognition came quite late for Kamal, he said it was “better late than never” and would motivate him to give Olympic glory one last shot.

This year he was the only athlete recommended for the country’s highest sporting honour, the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award, for his spectacular performance at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, where he won four medals, three gold and one silver.

‘Better late than never’

Kamal told PTI: “A truly proud moment. At this age to receive this award, to inspire so many millions of people in different sports is truly wonderful. It happened quite late in my career, but better late than never.” , reported NDTV.

This year, he was among 42 Khel Ratna aspirants, including hockey players Akashdeep Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Savita Punia and Vandana Katariya. Recognition went to an unprecedented five athletes in 2020 and 11 last year.

Besides the Khel Ratna, the awards committee chaired by retired Supreme Court justice, Justice AM Khanwilkar, recommended 25 athletes for this year’s Arjuna awards, including Commonwealth Games singles champion Lakshya Sen, world champion boxer Nikhat Zareen, among others.

Know Sharath Kamal

Achanta Sharath Kamal, the Indian professional paddler, was born on July 12, 1982 and was introduced to the sport by his father when he was four years old. His father and uncle were both state level players and national level coaches who taught the skills and prepared him for the game. He started his career at 16 and competed at the state level, and has been in fine form since his foray into the game, according to Wikipedia.

Kamal is the first Indian paddler to become a ten-time senior national champion, breaking the record of eight-time national champion Kamlesh Mehta. He has given spectacular performances at the Asian Games, Asian Championships, Commonwealth Games and Olympics since 2006. Moreover, he was awarded the Arjuna Award in 2004 and then India’s fourth civilian award, Padma Sri, in 2019.

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