On the occasion of National Sports Day, President Ram Nath Kovind in a virtual award ceremony felicitated all players with Arjuna Award. From Odisha this time it was won by ace Indian sprinter Dutee Chand. She was shortlisted for the award along with 27 other sportspersons of India. After getting the award, she became the 9th Arjuna awardee from Odisha.
Dutee is an Indian professional sprinter and current national champion in the women’s 100 metres event. She was born on February 3, 1996, and belongs to Jajpur district of Odisha. She is the third Indian woman to ever qualify for the Women’s 100 metres event at the Summer Olympic Games.
Dutee is also India’s first athlete to openly come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community when she spoke about being in a same-sex relationship in 2019. She faced a lot of turbulence in personal life but came out with flying colours just like she does in sports.
Odisha, which has attracted the attention of the whole world by organising world-class international sporting events in the recent past, has produced numerous players of national and international standards. Now Odisha has added another feather to its cap by becoming the state which has the highest number of Arjuna Awardee.
But the series of winning the Arjuna Award started from a lady cyclist, and she is none other than Minati Mahapatra. She won the Arjuna Award in 1980. At the age of 15, she chooses cycling, and a medal in 1970 National Games signified the beginning of a glorious career. 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 lifetime achievement in the promotion of sports & games.
Bijaya Kumar Sathpathy was very well known for his outstanding performance in weightlifting. He was native of Berhampur. He was bestowed with the prestigious Arjuna Award in 1982. He was a national champion in weightlifting for five consecutive years from 1977-78 to 1982-83.
He won 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.
Next Arjuna Award that was brought to home was by Rachita Mistry. She belonged to Rourkela and wanted to become India’s fastest woman. In 1995, Rachita got married 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, she didn’t stop. In May 2000, she broke the 100-metre national record held by her idol, PT Usha. In 1998, she was conferred Arjuna Award for her contribution to Indian athletics.
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.
Dilip Tirkey former Team India hockey captain, he was known for his penalty corner hit. He was considered among the best defenders of his generation. He was conferred with Arjuna Award in 2002 and Padma Shri in 2004. He made his debut in 1995 against England.
He gifted people of India three Olympics, three World Championships (1998-2006), 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.
Jyoti Sunita Kullu was conferred with the Arjuna Award in 2007. Jyoti, as captain of India, 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. She belonged to Sundargarh. She brought in five goals in six matches. She was part of the gold-winning Team India at the Commonwealth Games held in England.
Ignace Tirkey, a midfielder, had also captained the Indian hockey team. He made his debut in February 2001 against Belgium at Akbar el Yom Tournament in Cairo. 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. He led India in the 2006 Pakistan Test Series and 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. He received Arjuna Award in 2009 and Padma Shri in 2010.
K Ravi Kumar 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. He won Arjuna Award in 2011. A native of Berhampur, he was spotted by his trainer while practising bodybuilding 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.
Pramod Bhagat, a para shutter, was the eighth sportsperson from Odisha to have been conferred with Arjuna Award in 2019. A native of Bargarh, Bhagat had won two gold medals, i.e. men’s singles and men’s doubles at the BWF Para-Badminton World Championships.
Odisha has produced several other sports prodigies, both indoor and outdoor. As many as three Arjuna Awardee from the field of hockey, two from weightlifting and now after Dutee Chand, we have two sprinters too. Odisha is looking forward to unravelling of more such talents in the coming years.