36th National Games: Sajan Prakash, Hashika Ramachandra secure 'Best Athlete' awards

Hashika Ramachandra, just 14 years of age, won six gold in her collection of seven medals on her National Games debut. Meanwhile, 29-year-old Sajan Prakash won eight medals.
Hashika Ramachandra and  Sajan Prakash (Photo | Twitter/@Media_SAI)
Hashika Ramachandra and Sajan Prakash (Photo | Twitter/@Media_SAI)

NEW DELHI: 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.

As per a press release from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, 29-year-old Sajan Prakash won eight medals - 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.

Hashika Ramachandra, just 14 years of age, won six gold in her collection of seven medals on her 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.

Hashika Ramachandra said she was unsure if she would get the Best Female Athlete Award until she got a call yesterday. "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 of 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, Sajan Prakash has set good examples for 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.

The Kerala Police officer's commitment and desire to come across as the best ambassador for the sport that has given him everything was evident. And, he did a good fist of that, though he has had to taste defeat at the hands of younger swimmers Aneesh Gowda (200m Freestyle) and Advait Page (400m Medley, 800m and 1500m Freestyle).

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