NEW DELHI, July 20:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday highlighted the struggle, grit and determination of the Commonwealth Games-bound athletes in a light-hearted interaction as he urged them to forget expectations and focus only on giving their best at the Birmingham multi-sport event.
“Kyun pade ho chakkar mei, koi nahi hai takaar mei. You have to play with this attitude there,” Modi said during a virtual interactive session.
Well aware of their back stories, Modi asked the athletes how they overcame the hurdles in their lives.
“I joined Indian Army in 2012 and did normal duty for four years. After that I took up athletics. The hard army training and the tough Siachen Glacier posting helped me a lot during competitions,” 3000m steeple chaser Avinash Sable said.
“In my event there are a lot of obstacles, we have to jump through hurdles similar to how army training is, like crawling.”
Modi asked the 27-year-old Sable about his weight loss.
“When I was in army, my weight was quite high. But my unit motivated me to get into sports. But even for running I was quite heavy, I was 74kg but they supported and I used to get extra time for training. It took me 3-4 months and now my weight is 53kg.”
From cyclist David Beckham, the PM wanted to know if he ever thought about playing football professionally or if he ever played football with his teammate Ronaldo Singh, who is also named after a popular footballer.
“We don’t play football. Most of the time goes in training for track cycling,” said a shy David, aware that the PM was making a reference to his namesake and former England football captain David Beckham.
David, hailing from Andaman and Nicobar Islands, had lost his father during the 2004 Tsunami and mother a year later.
During the interaction, Modi jokingly asked shuttler Treesa Jolly how she and her women’s doubles partner Gayatri Gopichand will celebrate after returning from the Games.
“P V Sindhu had decided to eat ice cream after the Olympics, what are your plans?” he asked a grinning Treesa.
He further enquired how the 19-year-old chose badminton when Kannur where she comes from is famous for football and farming.
“My father motivated me to take up sport. Volleyball and football are more popular but at the age of 5, badminton was more convenient,” she said.
Modi sought to make the athletes feel at ease before the CWG, where expectations from them will be high.
“Those who have played at such marquee events before will have a chance to test themselves again and I’m sure the ones who are participating for the first time will also leave a mark.
“I will just say, give it your all and play without any tension, have fun. If everyone does that, the medals will come,” he said.
The PM asked para shot putter Sharmila about her inspiration to start a career in sport at the age of 34.
“I wanted to play since childhood but my family was poor, my mother was blind. We are three sisters and a brother. I was married at a young age. I have two daughters but all three of us had to face a lot of atrocities,” Sharmila said.
“Then my parent brought me back home. After my second marriage, one of my relatives supported me to get into sport and because of that I was able to win a gold in the Nationals.”
Hearing Sharmila’s story, Modi said she was a role model for everyone.
The PM promised the athletes that he would meet them when they come back and their victory can be celebrated together.
The interaction was also attended by Sports Minister Anurag Thakur and coaches of the athletes.
Olympic double medallist PV Sindhu, Tokyo silver medallist lifter Mirabai Chanu women’s hockey goalkeeper Savita Punia, Rio Games bronze medallist wrestler Sakshi Malik, boxers Shiva Thapa and Sumit, shuttlers Kidambi Srikanth and Lakshya Sen were also present.
BCCI President Sourav Ganguly, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) acting President Anil Khanna and Secretary Generay Rajeev Mehta were among the officials present at the interaction.
The CWG is scheduled to be held in Birmingham from July 28 to August 8 with a total of 215 Indian athletes participating in 141 events across 19 sporting disciplines. (PTI)