Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday interacted with India’s Olympic-bound athletes ahead of the Tokyo Olympics that begin on July 23 and said the athletes are a reflection of a “new India”. “Very soon, winning will become a habit for this new India,” said PM Modi. The Prime Minister spoke with the athletes about their journey in sport thus far and motivated them ahead of the Tokyo Games. PM Modi told them that they had qualities like dedication, determination and discipline, which made them a “Reflection of new India.”
PM Modi also told them to not worry about pressure and just play with all their heart at the Olympics.
PM Modi’s address to athletes on Tuesday had Sports Minister Anurag Thakur, former Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, and president of Indian Olympic Association Narinder Batra in attendance.
Indian athletes Sania Mirza, Mary Kom, Dutee Chand, Manika Batra, Sharath Kamal, PV Sindhu, Vinesh Phogat and several others spoke with the Prime Minister during the conversation.
PM Modi started a series of interactions with Deepika Kumari, Indian archer who recently attained No.1 ranking in women’s recurve event.
“After winning gold in Paris, the whole country is talking about you. Now you are World No. 1. I have come to know that you used to pick mangoes using your shooting skills,” PM Modi started on a lighter note.
“I really liked Mangoes, hence the story,” Deepika chuckled.
“My journey (in archery) has been very good. You expect the most from yourself. I am focussed on how I can give my best (at the Olympics),” said Deepika.
Archer Pravin Jadhav spoke about how he took to archery after starting out in athletics.
“You were an athlete earlier. How did you take to archery?” PM Modi asked.
“I had started out in athletics. I was told I could well in archery. I first took up archery in Amravati. My financial conditions weren’t very good. I knew I had to work as a labourer at home. Hence, I decided to keep at it and do well in archery.”
“You have gone through adversities. How did you manage to overcome them?” PM asked.
“I thought if I give up here, everything I went through would have been for nothing. So, I continued to work hard” said Jadhav.
PM Modi also interacted with Pravin Jadhav’s parents
“You have shown the rewards for hard-work and honesty. This success shows if there is good selection at the grassroots, the possibilities for the country are endless,” PM Modi told Pravin Jadhav’s parents.
Neeraj Chopra, India’s medal hope in javelin throw, spoke about his time in the Indian Army.
“Neeraj you have been in the army. What training helped you excel in sport?” PM Modi asked.
“I have always loved the army. After 5-6 years in sport, I was given the opportunity to join the army. The army has assisted me. I continue to work hard,” Neeraj replied.
“Despite going through injuries, you created a national record. How did you manage to keep things going?” PM Modi asked.
“We have a short career and we need to keep ourselves motivated. I lost a year due to injury. But I kept preparing and working hard, despite losing some time due to COVID lockdowns, and will continue to work hard,” said Neeraj.
Athlete Dutee Chand spoke about going through adversities in her journey to the Olympics.
“Your name itself means “dazzle”. And you have been dazzling through sport. Tell us about your journey,” PM Modi asked Dutee Chand.
“I have gone through adversities. I thought if I play well, I could land a government job through sports. I thank you and Dr. Achyuta Samanta (humanitarian and Rajya Sabha MP) and Naveen Pattnaik (Chief Minister of Odisha) for my journey,” said Dutee.
“There have been controversies and hurdles along the way but I continue to strive for success. I work for women’s success as well and want all women of the country to do well.”
Boxer Ashish Kumar comes from a family of sportspersons. His father was a kabaddi player. Ashish spoke about how he took to boxing.
“You father was a kabaddi player. How did you come to choose boxing?” PM Modi asked.
“My father wanted me to be a boxer. I come from a family of sportspersons. My brother was a wrestler but I was of a lean frame. So, I decided that I couldn’t be a wrestler and chose boxing,” Ashish said.
“You suffered from COVID. You lost your father as well. How did you cope and continue working hard?” asked PM Modi.
“I was emotionally hurt after my father died. My family supported me well through testing times. My friends motivated me that I should work towards fulfilling my father’s dreams,” said Ashish Kumar.
“When I was in Spain, I had tested positive for COVID. But I was given special facilities. Despite those facilities I took a long time to recover. After returning to India, our sports staff helped me a lot. I got back into rhythm with their help.”
“Sachin Tendulkar had also lost his father during a tournament. He paid a tribute to his father through his game. You have also done the same. You are already a champion and the nation expects from you on the Olympics stage,” said PM Modi.
Legendary boxer Mary Kom also spoke to PM Modi.
“You have been an inspiration for many. Athletes look up to you. What do you tell athletes when they call you?” asked the prime minister.
“I keep telling my kids that I play for the country. I tell them that when I am away you need to listen to your father. But due to COVID restrictions it has become difficult for them. I told them we need to fight this out. I tell them I also do my best to bring laurels to the country,” said Mary Kom.
“Who is your favourite sportsperson?” asked PM Modi.
“Muhammad Ali has been an inspiration for me in boxing,” said the champion boxer.
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