Deaf Wrestler Virender Singh Awarded Padma Shri
Virender Singh famously known as ‘Goonga Pehelwan’, the three-time Deaflympics gold medallist, was awarded the Padma Shri on Republic Day.
Every year on the eve of Republic Day Padma awards - Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan are announced by the President since 1954. These are the highest awards given in India. Awardees were recognised for their distinguished service in the fields of arts, sports, social work, public affairs and literature etc. Virender Singh famously known as ‘Goonga Pehelwan’, the three-time Deaflympics gold medallist was announced as a recipient of the Padma Shri award. He is the first from his community of Deaf athletes to achieve this feat. It was a massive recognition of his talent and the hardship faced by him since childhood. This award is proof that Deaf individuals can achieve anything they set their mind too and are at par with their able-bodied counterparts. Born in a farmer’s family of Sasroli village in Haryana’s Jhajjar District, Virendra was inspired to take up wrestling by his father Ajit Singh and uncle Surinder Pehelwan, who were wrestlers too. As a deaf kid, he was bullied in the village. When Virendra was 8 years old, his father Ajit suffered a road accident, and badly damaged his left leg. This is why Virendra was moved to Delhi to live at the CISF Akhara. It was then that Virender developed a keen interest in wrestling. His uncle Surinder personally started coaching Virendra. Virendra then started training at famous wrestling akharas of Delhi.
His first success was at the National Rounds of the World Cadet Wrestling Championships in 2002, where he won the gold medal. Winning the medal automatically qualified him for the INTERNATIONAL MATCHES, however, the Indian government disqualified him, citing his deafness as the reason and chose the silver medalist for the international games.
Virendra was heartbroken that he was snubbed because of his disability and then returned to earn his livelihood. In 2005, his father & uncle came to know about the Deaflympics which were being held in Melbourne, Australia. Deaflympics were earlier known as The World Games for the Deaf or The Silent Games. They worked very hard and saved Rs 70,000 for Virendra to travel to Melbourne. Virendra went there and won the Gold medal in wrestling. Since then Virendra continued winning medals. Again, at the 2013 Summer Deaflympics in Bulgaria and 2017 Summer Deaflympics in Turkey, he won the Gold Medal. The Government has awarded him 4 medals. The Rajiv Gandhi State Sports Award & National Disability Award.In 2016, Virender was awarded the Arjuna Award for his stellar contribution to Indian Sports.