In a conversation with P V Sindhu, who famously had to lay off ice-cream in the run-up to silver at the Rio Olympics, Modi wondered if there was a similar restriction this time.
- Will you be allowed to eat ice-cream after the Olympics?
- Phogat family apni betiyon ko kaun si chakki ka atta khilati hai (What does the Phogat family feed its daughters)?
- Does your passion for dancing act as a stress-buster for you?
These were some of the questions that Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked India’s top athletes in a motivation and farewell session before they left for the Tokyo Olympic Games set to begin on July 23.
In a conversation with P V Sindhu, who famously had to lay off ice-cream in the run-up to silver at the Rio Olympics, Modi wondered if there was a similar restriction this time. “Thoda control karti hoon (I do control a little),” the shuttler replied. Modi assured: “Work hard and I have faith that you will again be successful this time. And after you succeed, when I meet all of you, I will also have ice-cream with you.”
He asked Vinesh Phogat if a biopic on the wrestler could be expected in the near future. And apart from dancing, he wanted to know from Manika Batra about the inspiration behind her Tricolour nail paint. The Delhi-based paddler replied: “It is to keep the Indian flag close to me. When I am serving I see my left hand and the Indian flag, which inspires me.”
What was supposed to be a meet-and-greet with the athletes had to be converted to a video call because of Covid restrictions. Also, many of the top athletes are currently in countries with less stringent Covid norms and better training
“Don’t be bogged down by expectations, just give your best. The hopes of the country are attached to you,” Modi said.
“When I see all of you together, I see some commonalities. Bold, confident and positive are some of the things I see in all of you. I see a common factor — discipline, dedication and determination. I see commitment and competitiveness. These are the same qualities that ‘New India’ has as well. All of you are a reflection of ‘New India’,” he said.
“We had a virtual conversation today. But I would have liked to host all athletes in Delhi and meet everyone in person. This is something I have always done and the occasion has always been a joyous one for me,” he said.
Three-time Olympian Achanta Sharath Kamal was called upon to speak on his past experiences at the Games. The table tennis ace said that while in previous competitions, sports took centre stage, these Olympics would be different —following health protocols and Covid rules would be just as important as performing well.
Middleweight boxer Ashish Kumar told the Prime Minister about the period when he was in Spain and started showing symptoms of the virus but
benefited from constant communication and a special space for training.
Modi asked Mahavir Phogat — the patriarch of the Phogat wrestling clan and 53-kg freestyle wrestler Vinesh’s uncle — what the family fed their daughters. The conversation then veered towards Mahavir’s vow and how Vinesh could help fulfill it: “Agar Olympic mein medal leke aoge toh mein airport pe lene aaunga (I will come to receive you at the airport if you bring a medal from the Olympics).”
A key theme of the interaction was Modi finding common ground with the athletes. Saurabh Chaudhary, one half of India’s medal hopes in the 10m Air Pistol mixed team event, spoke to the Prime Minister about how he uses yoga and meditation to remain grounded and focused ahead of his first ever Olympics appearance.
Modi reminded Elavenil Valarivan, the 21-year-old shooting medal hopeful, that their connection goes way back. “I was the MLA from Maninagar constituency (in Ahmedabad) and you live there. When sport academies were added to my assembly segment in Khokhra, I remember that you used to come to play,” Modi told a beaming Valarivan.
“Tab toh tum bacchi thi, aaj mujhe tumhe dekhne ke baad bada garv hota hai (You were a child back then, I feel very proud looking at you today.”
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