'I am happy that disability no bar, gender no bar and age no bar and now at 49, if I can be awarded Khel Ratna for active sports, it validates my journey of ability beyond disability.'
Deepa Malik, who was on Saturday nominated for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, believes that her biggest achievement is changing perception of common public towards disability and para-athletes in general.
Malik, a silver medallist at the last Paralympics in Rio, feels that her whole journey has been more about trying to change people's attitude towards how they look at disability.
"I am very happy because I have always stood up. This whole journey has been more about changing the attitude of people towards disability and the hidden potential in people with disability. I think its going to come as a huge inspiration to women athletes in disability. It took 70 years for independent India to win medal in Paralympic," Malik said.
Asked about her journey, Malik said: "In 2012, when I won the Arjuna award and people thought that at 42, it would be retirement age for me. I am happy that disability no bar, gender no bar and age no bar and now at 49, if I can be awarded Khel Ratna for active sports, it validates my journey of ability beyond disability."
Malik feels that women from hinterland will take her award as an inspiration and try to achieve bigger goals in their lives.
"I think this is going to be a huge boost and encouragement for women from smaller towns because I come from a very small town in Haryana. I started my journey from Ahmednagar in Maharashtra. I think it's going to act not only an inspiration in sports world but also help the cause of women empowerment.”
Malik thanked the panel for respecting the efforts and achievements of the para-athletes.
"I am grateful to the jury for respecting the efforts of a para-athlete. The difficulties of a para-athlete faces in terms of frequent changes of their events, clubbing of their events. I am glad that they have been able to erase the inhibitions that para athletics are easy, they are equally competent, internationally there is a lot of competition," she said.
Further touching upon the challenges and difficulties faced by the para-athletes, she said: "People think we don't have competition whereas ours is far more competitive. You can qualify but you may still not get to represent your country because there is a quota allocation system (for events). I am glad that the jury factored a para sports woman's journey."
Asked what was next in line for her, Deepa said:"Unfortunately, the 2020 Paralympics does not include my event discus (F 53). On a personal front, I am doing a lot of swimming."
Malik has already received cash award to the tune of Rs 4 crore from the Haryana government for her Paralympic medal.