It was heartening to watch our Olympic medal winners returning home triumphantly to a warm welcome in Delhi on Monday. All these medal winners were felicitated by the government at a grand ceremony in Ashoka Hotel. Three central ministers Kiren Rijiju, Anurag Thakur and Nishith Pramanik greeted the Olympic players at the ceremony.
Sports and Information & Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said, the journey of these Olympic heroes is an “incredible story of resilience and sporting excellence”. Thakur said, “Tokyo 2020 was an Olympic Games of many firsts for India. The success of Team India at the Olympics is a reflection of how New India desires and aspires to dominate the world, even in sports. Sports is a great unifier as our athletes come from villages and cities, north to south, from east to west.”
Players of both men’s hockey team, that won the Olympic bronze, and the women’s hockey team, that stood fourth, cut cakes before the ceremony as part of celebrations. Manpreet Singh, the men’s hockey team captain, said, “It feels great, I would like to thank the government, Sports Authority of India and Indian Olympic Association for helping us during our quarantine time. They provided us all the support.”
The cynosure of all eyes was Neeraj Chopra, who won the Olympic gold in javelin throw. He, along with other medal winners and athletes, had a tough time coming out of Delhi airport. Supporters jostled to have a glimpse of their medal-winning heroes. The fans, many of them euphoric, cheered loudly as the players made their way through a huge crowd, both inside and outside the airport. Many of them danced, sang and screamed while welcoming the Olympic heroes. The athletes were then whisked away in buses to the hotel, where the felicitation ceremony was held.
India’s performance in Tokyo Olympics called for a celebration because for the first time, our country won a gold medal in track and field, and it won the highest tally of one gold, two silver and four bronze medals in Olympics. Our hockey team won an Olympic medal after a drought of 41 years. While Neeraj Chopra won the gold in javelin, Ravi Kumar Dahiya and Mirabai Chanu won silver medals in wrestling and weightlifting respectively, Lovlina Borgohain (boxing), Bajrang Punia (wrestling), P V Sindhu (badminton) and men’s hockey team won bronze medals.
Gold medallist Neeraj Chopra said, he endured immense pain after the tough javelin throw contest but he forgets his pain whenever he looks at his gold medal. “We all come from middle class families and for us, during preparations, support of our families is essential”, said Chopra at the ceremony. Lovlina Borgohain, the bronze winning boxer from Assam, said, “I know India is very happy, but after returning here, to get this sort of love first hand, it feels really nice. I will try to do my best to win more such medals.”
We have won the highest tally of Olympic medals this time, and the entire credit goes to the talent, labour and dedication of each players, and of course, the sacrifices done by their families. By winning Olympic medals, our players have given a new life filled with fresh hopes and inspirations to hockey, boxing, wrestling, weightlifting and athletics. We should not forget the support provided by the governments, both at the Centre and states, to these players.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took personal interest in the performance of each player. He spoke to each of them, when they had left for Tokyo, and spoke to them again after the tough contests. He took care to ensure that not a single player was infected with Coronavirus, and he took regular updates about their training. I know of players on whom the government spent Rs two to five crores on their coaching, training and equipment.
There was a time when our players used to complain that they were accommodated in railway coaches at station sidings. They used to complain about improper diet, lack of coaches, and availability of stadiums. This time, there was not a single complaint from any player about diet, training, accommodation, coaching or travel. The government did its part, the system provided all assistance, and the players did wonders.
Girls hailing from poor families in far-off villages returned with Olympic medals, boys and girls from small towns, hailing from middle class families, brought medals. Their victories will inspire present and future generations to achieve more laurels. Meritorious players will now emerge from every state, every town and village to bring fame for India.
Till now, only cricket was the glamour that attracted youths, but now sports like hockey, boxing and wrestling will inspire youths to show their might. A nation of 1.35 billion Indians cannot remain content with only seven medals. I look forward to an amazing performance in 2024 Paris Olympics.
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