Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday interacted with Tokyo Olympics-bound athletes in a virtual meet.
According to the IOA, India will be sending a 228-strong contingent to the Tokyo Olympics, including 119 athletes.
Modi started the session by asking the athletes about their ambitions and challenges ahead of the sporting extravaganza.
“During my last Mann Ki Baat, I talked about you (Deepika Kumari) and the other athletes. You are now the world number one in rankings, the world would love to know about your journey, I know in your childhood, you used to aim at mangoes,” said PM Modi during the session.
“When you reach such a level at the big stage, expectations are obviously there from you. The country is confident that you will make the nation proud at the upcoming Games,” he added.
Talking to javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, PM Modi said: “I have been told that you got injured, but still you created a new record. You don’t need to get bogged down by expectations, don’t take the burden of expectations, just focus on your goal.
Replying to PM Modi, Neeraj said: “I am focusing on my game, anything I want, the government is helping me in that. We have a limited career, because of injury, I lost some time but I was fully focused on the Olympics. Because of Covid-19, Olympics got postponed but I kept on preparing for the event.”
Talking to sprinter Dutee Chand, Modi said: “Dutee Ji, the result of your hard work that you have done for so many years, is decided by few seconds,” adding she is ‘all set to make everyone proud at the Olympics.’
The virtual video conferencing session was started by Union Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Anurag Thakur wherein he introduced PM Modi and he thanked him for taking out the time to boost the morale of the athletes. MoS Nisith Pramanik and Law Minister Kiren Rijiju were also present along with Indian Olympic Association President Narinder Batra.
Among others, the PM spoke to iconic boxer M C Mary Kom, badminton ace PV Sindhu, talented shooters Saurabh Chaudhary, Elavenil Valarivan and veteran table tennis player A Sharath Kamal during a virtual interactive session.
Well aware of their preparations and formative years, Modi’s conversations touched upon the making of their success stories and also some fun queries like the one posed to world champion P V Sindhu.
“There was a ban on eating ice creams on you during the 2016 Olympics, has another ban been imposed for Tokyo,” he asked to a grinning Sindhu, who would be aiming to better the silver she won five years ago.
“Sir, I have to be careful of my diet,” she responded.
Offering his personal touch, Modi also spoke to the parents of Sindhu and lauded them for backing their daughter during her journey to success.
He asked Olympic bronze medallist and six-time world champion M C Mary Kom about her favourite athlete and favourite shot, and her reply was Muhammad Ali and the hook.
Then he went to Rio Olympics silver medallist and reigning world champion Sindhu and her parents and praised them for the sacrifices they have made during the journey.
Modi called the athletes a reflection of new India said they look bold and confident ahead of the Games.
He said all possible help has been extended to them through the government’s target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).
“I find a few things common among you all, you are bold, confident and positive. That’s a common factor along with, discipline, dedication and determination,” Modi told the athletes.
There are several notable firsts in terms of participation. For the first time in its history, a fencer from India (Bhavani Devi) has qualified for the Olympic Games. Nethra Kumanan is the first-ever female sailor from India to qualify for Olympics. Sajan Prakash and Srihari Nataraj are the first swimmers from India to qualify for an Olympic Games by achieving the ‘A’ Qualification Standard in swimming.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has already confirmed that boxer Mary Kom and men’s hockey team captain Manpreet Singh would be the flagbearers for the Indian contingent at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics in the opening ceremony.
Wrestler Bajrang Punia will be the flagbearer at the closing ceremony. The Indian contingent would depart for Tokyo on July 17. Olympics will run from July 23 to August 8.
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