| Arjuna awardee Bijay Kumar Satapathy. Picture by Gopal Krishna Reddy |
Berhampur, Aug. 31: The state erupted in joy on Monday when Oriya weightlifter Subedar Katulu Ravi Kumar received the coveted Arjuna Award from President Pratibha Patil. But no one remembered Bijay Kumar Satapathy from the Silk City. The 58-year-old weightlifter had won the same award 29 years ago.
“Although I am very happy that Ravi Kumar, who belongs to my hometown and also my club (Veer Hanuman Circus and Physical Institute), has bagged the Arjuna Award this year, I feel that the state government has ignored and deprived me of opportunities and incentives,” said Satapathy.
The national champion in weightlifting for five consecutive years from 1977-78 to 1982-83, Satapathy was adjudged the best weightlifter of India at Cochin in Kerala during 1981-82.
Satapathy secured the second position in the1980-81 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand, won bronze in Asian Championship held at Nagoya in Japan in 1981-82. He also bagged the gold medal in the Mini Commonwealth Games, 1981, and a silver medal in the Commonwealth Games in 1982, both held in Brisbane, Australia.
“I received the Arjuna Award in 1982. It was the happiest moment of my life as I still consider this award as the ultimate goal of a sportsperson. I have preserved the memento and the certificate just like I have preserved the medals I won in various national and international events. But today, I realise that my state has forgotten me,” said Satapathy, who rued that he was never given a chance to guide young talents despite his valuable experience at international levels.
“Even today, the state government does not support weightlifters in terms of infrastructure, proper coaching and diet. It is the effort of the veteran weightlifters that has been helping young talents to achieve success in this field,” he said.
Satapathy said the government was supporting contemporary sportspersons but he was not even felicitated at the state level when he had received the Arjuna Award.
“Even now, I’m tired of trying to get a government land or other incentives despite my repeated requests to the state government. I was disappointed to find that my application for a government land to the state sports department had gone missing,” he said.
Satapathy, who started weightlifting in his school days, had joined the Indian Navy in the sports quota in 1974 and later served the Indian Railways.
He took voluntary retirement in 2009 after serving for 24 years.
Members of the sports fraternity in the state have come out in support of Satapathy. “He is also the pride of Berhampur as well as Orissa.
The state government must reward him for his achievements,” said Ramesh Padhi, joint secretary of the Orissa Weightlifting Association and a national-level referee.
When asked for his comment on the veteran sportperson’s grievances, sports minister Badri Narayan Patra said: “Incentives given to sportspersons vary from person to person as per their performance and achievements.”
On the issue of granting government land for sportspersons, Patra said: “It is looked after by the general administration department and the chief minister takes the final decision. If a sportsperson is interested, he should apply for the same to the general administration department.”