Arjuna Awardee Deepa Malik and president of Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) on Saturday said the committee struggled to find sponsors for the para athletes in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic much before the country bagged 19 medals at the Paralympics 2020 held in Tokyo this year. Malik, also a recipient of Padma Shri, said if PCI had not shifted gears to make athletes a prime subject, there would not be a Deepa Malik heading the Paralympic Committee.
"...what we are celebrating today are heros of Tokyo Paralympics 2020, kudos to them, kudos to PCI which has shifted gears to athlete-centric programme of growth. If PCI had not translated its entire focus to athletes and making athletes a prime subject, I do not think Deepa Malik would have ever been nominated to become the president," she said at a felicitation ceremony organised by Indian Bank for the rich haul of medals.
Noting that the PCI wants to ensure that an athlete does not miss out on anything whether sponsorships or money, she said, "Due to the Covid pandemic, we (PCI) were struggling, we were not able to reach out in getting the right kind of sponsorships (which) we should have got because the entire nation had gone through the pandemic." However, she extended the gratitude of PCI to top officials of the bank, including its former MD and CEO Padmaja Chunduru for having sponsored the athletes and joined hands with PCI much before the para athletes brought laurels.
"I definitely remember Padmaja (Chunduru) here, because Indian Bank was forthcoming and instantly they agreed to sponsor and it was very nice to see that a support came at a time when we had not won the 19 medals," she said. The country bagged five gold, eight silver and six bronze medals in the games. The managing director and CEO of the bank Shanti Lal Jain, after honouring the medal winners, said, "The performance of the athletes was impressive, inspirational."
"It gives me great pleasure to be part of this event that recognises the outstanding achievements of these gritty para-athletes. That the historic haul of highest medals ever came this year when Indian Bank extended a hand, given us the confidence that we are on the right track," he said. Indian Bank is banking partner for Paralympic Committee of India, and has entered into a long-term commitment with it wherein it extends support for training, equipment, nutrition and medical needs, among others.