Surat, Oct. 12: Gold-minting swimmers Sajan Prakash (Kerala) and Hashika Ramachandra (Karnataka) were crowned the Best Male Athlete and Best Female Athlete respectively in the 36th National Games on Wednesday.
The 29-year-old Prakash won eight medals, with five individual gold, two silver and a bronze, to pip Srihari Nataraj who also claimed eight medals in all, with six gold including two in relays. It is the second straight time that India's most experienced swimmer has bagged the coveted trophy after his success in the 2015 National Games in Kerala.
Ramachandra, just 14 years of age, won six gold in her collection of seven medals on National Games debut. She became the first Karnataka athlete in 23 years to bag this coveted trophy. Nisha Millet was the last winner from Karnataka, having swept medals in the 1999 National Games in Imphal.
Ramachandra said she was unsure if she would get the Best Female Athlete Award until she got a call on Tuesday (Oct. 11). "I am delighted that I have been named for the prestigious award.
"This will inspire me to get better and deliver more great performances. There may be a little bit pressure on me from now, but I have to do what I have to do," she said.
Sajan was part of one of the most sensational 800m Freestyle races in India, where he claimed bronze ahead of younger swimmers like Anesh S Gowda and Vedaant Madhavan. He was glowing in his praise of the Florida-based swimmers Advait Page (Madhya Pradesh) and Aryan Nehra (Gujarat) and felt happy to be in the mix till the final few metres.
"I was happy to compete in the National Games in Gujarat. It was a sudden but welcome development that the Games was announced and the biggest sporting meet in the country was held. I thank everyone who has worked to put the Games together at such short notice," he said, having previously wondered if the National Games would happen.
More than his collection of eight medals in the National Games 2022, Prakash has set good examples to the next generation of swimmers he came face to face with at the Sardar Patel Aquatics Complex in Rajkot. He walked the talk by being gracious, win or lose.
"I have heard that young athletes like Aneesh Gowda have spoken well about me. I am grateful for any positive impact I have been able to make on the young swimmers. Being kind and gracious should become the norm and I want to set a good example to change things around.," Sajan Prakash said, providing a glowing illustration of sportsmanship.
Source: Media Release