Paralympics medallist Deepa wins NZ PM's Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship

New Delhi (PTI): Rio Paralympics silver medallist Deepa Malik was on Thursday named as the recipient of the New Zealand Prime Minister's Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship for 2019 in recognition of her "inspiring achievements".

The 48-year-old Deepa, who won the silver medal in shot put F53 event in Rio in 2016, will work to promote sporting, cultural as well people-to-people relationship between India and New Zealand.

Athletes in F53 category can do only seated throws and they have full muscle power on their shoulder, elbow and wrist in the throwing arm.

"We are very pleased to announce that the New Zealand Prime Minister's Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship for 2019 has been awarded to Indian Paralympic athlete Deepa Malik. The fellowship, awarded by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, aims to strengthen the ties between India and New Zealand," a New Zealand High Commission release said.

"It gives us great pleasure to award this fellowship to someone who exemplifies two values that make a great sportsperson: courage and a can-do attitude. In Deepa, we see an inspiring achiever who can confidently and proudly carry forward our message of inclusivity and the pursuit of excellence," it added.

Congratulating Deepa, High Commissioner Joanna Kempkers said, "When Deepa comes home, she will be a great ambassador for the India-New Zealand relationship. We hope that she will share her experiences in New Zealand far and wide, bringing greater understanding and helping to build the people-to-people links between the two countries."

Deepa, on her part, said the conferment of the prestigious fellowship on her was a "clear declaration of great attention towards the empowerment of women and of people with disabilities, and the celebration of diverse cultures in both countries".

"I feel absolutely humbled and blessed to be able to represent the essence of India, for the bilateral relationship between the two countries. Prime Minister Ardern's leadership is such an inspiration to the world and resonates with Indian values," she said.

"Having won my first major medal, a silver in F53 women's shot put at the IPC World Para Athletics Championship 2011 in Christchurch, I have always had a special connect with New Zealand and its Paralympics fraternity and I happily accept this purposeful association on behalf of my fellow citizens of India," Deepa said.

As a Hillary Fellow, Deepa will travel to New Zealand and meet Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, undertake a series of visits to Paralympic sporting organisations and engage with Kiwi athletes, students and media as well as the significant Indian community there.

At 36, she was diagnosed with a spinal tumour which left her unable to walk. She became the first Indian woman to win a medal at the Paralympic Games when she bagged a silver in shot put F 53 at the Rio Paralympics in 2016, scoring her personal best of 4.61m.

She is the only Indian woman to have won medals in three consecutive Asian Para Games in 2010, 2014 and 2018. Her tally of laurels stands at 58 national and 23 international medals.

A recipient of India's civilian honour Padma Shri and the prestigious Arjuna Award for excellence in sports, Deepa has entered the Limca Book of World Records four times.

"New Zealand has a world-class Paralympic sporting system and we are excited by the opportunity for Deepa to visit New Zealand, see our facilities first-hand, and meet with some of our Paralympic sportspeople," the New Zealand High Commission said.

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