Neeraj Chopra, India’s first athletics gold medallist at the Olympics, silver medallist Ravi Kumar Dahiya and bronze medallists Bajrang Punia, Lovlina Borgohain and the Indian men’s hockey team were all felicitated by Sports Minister Anurag Thakur and Law Minister and former Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju at the Ashoka Hotel on Monday. PV Sindhu and Mirabai Chanu, the other two medallists in Tokyo, had been welcomed back home way back and were not present at the ceremony.
There was absolute frenzy at the New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport on Monday as people flocked to catch a glimpse of their Olympic heroes. Neeraj, Bajrang, Ravi and Lovlina were helped as they navigated through the crowd to enter their cars and make their way to the Ashoka Hotel in Chanakyapuri.
All the athletes – India’s athletics, wrestling, boxing contingent and the Indian women’s hockey team – along from the medallists, all received a grand reception at the hotel, following which the medallists were felicitated in a function.
The Sports Minister congratulated all the medallists and athletes and called it an Olympics of “many firsts for India”. He talked about the pride every Indian felt as the national anthem was playing in an Olympic stadium because of Neeraj. He thanked the men’s hockey team for ending the country’s 41-year wait for an Olympics medal. He saluted the women’s hockey team for their mammoth effort, lauded Aditi Ashok’s golf achievement, Bhavani Devi’s fencing effort, Nethra Kumanan’s sailing achievement, the men’s 4x400m relay team’s new Asian record, Avinash Sable’s new national record in steeplechase and more.
He said, “The IOA did all to provide you support, you worked as hard as you could to make India proud.”
He also talked about the effort and support provided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and revealed how involved he was in the entire process. “PM used to ask her how all athletes were training, if the parents were all happy, if the vaccination was done for them all. He spoke to athletes even after they lost and gave them confidence. If a PM of a country can do that, the youth is not going to stay behind.”
Even Kiren Rijiju spoke about how PM Modi had asked for massive preparation in Tokyo for the athletes but the coronavirus pandemic spoilt all those plans.
All the medallists present at the ceremony were given momentos and bouquets. Bajrang thanked everyone and talked about why he chose to fight his bronze medal bout with a brace on his injured knee. Lovlina expressed her happiness over the love and support she has got and hoped to continue winning medals for the country.
Indian men’s hockey team captain Manpreet Singh spoke about how his team was his family and they would get together again soon to begin practicing for the next tournament. Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh said they have all won because of their families support and lauded women’s hockey team goalkeeper Savita for her massive effort in the historic campaign of the team.
Ravi spoke about how Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt inspired him and Neeraj gave an insight into his mindset, which is what makes him click at the biggest stage.
Rijiju said that the moment was so huge that words would fail to describe them. “When we were watching you in Tokyo, we felt the pain too, because we were playing for you. Waking up at 5am, we were cheering for you. We are very proud of you,” he said.
He thanked Neeraj for dedicated his medal to ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh and said it was a huge achievement to even participate in the Olympics. “Gold, silver and bronze medals are name but they are made of blood, tears and sweat. From all the people of India, I want to thank you all again. I want to thank all the coaches and IOA and everyone who worked in the background to make them superstars,” he concluded.