New Delhi: Paralympic silver-medallist Deepa Malik on Thursday (August 29), became the first Indian woman para-athlete and the oldest to be conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award but training commitments kept co-awardee Bajrang Punia away from the ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.

Malik, who won a silver medal in the shot put F53 category in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, was the joint winner of the top honour with Asian and Commonwealth Games champion Punia, who is in Russia, preparing for the upcoming World Championships in Kazakhstan.

Malik became the second para-athlete after double Paralympic gold medallist javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia, who received the recognition in 2017, to have won the prestigious award. At 49, she also became the oldest athlete ever to have claimed the honour.

"I am very happy. This whole journey has been more about changing the attitude of people towards disability and the hidden potential in people with disability," Malik said.

"I think the award is going to be a huge inspiration to women athletes in disability. It took 70 years for independent India to win a medal in Paralympic," she added.

While the Khel Ratna award carries a prize purse of Rs 7.5 lakh, the Arjuna awardees are given Rs 5 lakh each along with citations.

Apart from the Khel Ratna and Arjuna Awards, the President also gave away coaches to the Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand awards, the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Awards, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy and Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar.