The 34-year-old expressed delight after receiving the honour.

Several Indian athletes were conferred with the Padma Shri award 2021 recently. Among them was Sudha Singh, the veteran long-distance runner. The athlete, hailing from Uttar Pradesh received national recognition for her years of service to the country in the field of athletics.

“I was a bit surprised when I got the news that I have been awarded Padma Shri. I deserved to win it but you never know you will get it or not. I am grateful to the UP chief minister for nominating me,” Sudha Singh said in an interview with PTI.

The veteran, who has given 15-years to athletics, competing in various championships including two Olympics, has also won a gold medal in the 2010 Asian Games. In response to being conferred the Padma Shri award, Sudha Singh remarked, “I have won a lot of laurels at the international level since a bronze in 2005. I feel the award is recognition of my hard work and dedication in the last 15 years. Surely, winning the award is one of the biggest moments in my life.”

“When I started my athletics career, I never thought I would win Padma Shri one day. It has been an amazing journey. After the (team) bronze in Asian Cross Country Championships in 2005, I got a job in Western Railways but after some time I got indications that I will have to keep winning medals if I have to continue the job.”

Tokyo Olympics is the target

Her aspiration is to compete in the marathon event at the Tokyo Olympics. She had also represented the country in the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, China.

she continued, “I want to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in marathon, 3000m steeplechase is not my priority now as far as Olympics qualification is concerned. I am going to run in the New Delhi Marathon in March and there I am targeting Olympics qualification. I also want to break the national record, let’s see.”

The Padma Shri award puts Sudha Singh in a list of exemplary athletes, such as Milkha Singh, Anju Bobby George and P T Usha to name a few. Sudha aims to break the national record in the marathon which stands at 2:34:43 while her personal best comes to 2:34.56. However, in order to qualify for the Olympics, she must break the qualification time of 2:29.30.

For more updates, follow Khel Now on TwitterInstagram and join our community on Telegram.