Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday asked the Tokyo Olympics-bound Indian sportspersons not to get bogged down by the pressure of huge expectations and try and put up their best performance without bothering about the results.
“Don’t take pressure of winning, just tell yourself one thing that we will do our best. I will say it again ‘cheer for India’. I am sure you will touch new heights,” Prime Minister Modi told the 126 members of the Indian contingent and their family members during an interaction on Tuesday evening.
He said his government has provided all the facilities and support to the sportspersons and as a result athletes in such large number have qualified for Tokyo Olympics.
“Just like we have to combine hard work with good strategy to win in sports, the government has also done the same. We set up a committee, athletes were helped with the TOPS scheme. The development from before is being felt by you all. You sweat for the country and the flag and for that, the country stands strong beside you. We tried our best to help the athletes train, we listened to them, which is why we could bring so much betterment in such less time. With Khelo India and Fit India, things got better and the result is that a huge contingent is going to the Olympics this time.
“A lot of sports are such in which India has qualified for the first time. You have been practicing to win and we don’t doubt it all. I can see you all and say with conviction that winning will become new India’s habit. When you will wave the flag in Tokyo, the world will see. Don’t take pressure of winning, just tell yourself one thing that we will do our best. I will say it again ‘cheer for India’. I am sure you will touch new heights. I thank you all and I wish you all the very best. I salute your families. Thank you very much.”
He said he could not host them at his official residence in New Delhi, as had been done in past, because of the Coronovirus pandemic but promised to host them when they return from Tokyo.
“All the athletes and families, we spoke virtually today but I would have loved to have hosted you all in Delhi. Due to corona, we couldn’t do that. A lot of athletes are training abroad. Once you are back, I promise to meet you all in person. Corona changed a lot — Olympic year, your way of preparation. In Tokyo, the environment will be different. The nation got to know today how much you have worked hard for the country even in these tough times. I asked the country to cheer for you all and it makes me happy that the country is cheering for you. I have seen a lot of images on #CheerforIndia, the whole nation is cheering for you. Everyone is going to pray for you. I wish you all the very best,” he added.
He said the Tokyo-bound sportspersons were a reflection of new India.
“I see you all together and I see some things common – confidence, positivity, discipline, dedication and commitment. You are a reflection of new India. You come from all of India, some started in field, some in academies but all of you are part of Team India. You are going to represent the country, and this spirit is the image of India. You play with all your spirit, work more on your technique.”
The Prime Minster interacted with individual sportspersons, finding out about their progress, their trials and travails, the sacrifices their family have made to help them reach the top in their chosen sport. He extended his best wishes to each one of them for the Olympics.
He asked tennis star Sania Mirza about what does it take to become a tennis player? Sania replied that one needs “a lot of hard work and talent to make it big. Family’s support and dedication is also important and destiny does play a role. But there is no substitute for hard work and talent”.
She said things have improved a lot since she started and now we have better infrastructure and hoped that there will be more tennis players.
He asked Vinesh Phogat whether being part of a famous family means extra pressure. Vinesh replied: “There is pressure and expectation but I feel that is important and we push more due to expectation. There is no pressure, I will do well and hope to win a medal.”
He inquired with Vinesh about her recovery process the injury that ended her Rio Olympics dream in the quarterfinals. Vinesh said support of family, friends, federation and SAI helped her in those tough times.
“It is tough but as a top-level athlete, you have to be mentally strong. The family plays an important role but also the federation and SAI, and you don’t want to disappoint them. We can’t stop, this is how I think.”
The Prime Minister asked Commonwealth Games gold medallist table tennis player Manika Batra how did she get the thought to help underprivileged kids play TT. Manika told him that she saw talent in them and felt that they can do well if she helped them.
“I have seen you paint your nails with the National Flag. Why do you do that?,” he asked. Manika replied that she wants the flag close to her while playing and seeing the flag on her serving arm inspires her.
The Prime Minister asked reigning world champion in badminton and Rio Olympic silver-medallist, PV Sindhu, if she is staying away from mobile phone and ice creams just like before Rio when coach P Gopichand had taken away her mobile phone and did not allow her to eat ice creams.
Sindhu replied she had to take care of her diet and therefore she is not having ice cream much. The PM offered to have ice-cream with her when he hosts the medallists after they return from Tokyo.
He told star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra not to get bogged down by the pressure of expectations and inquired about how he kept himself motivated during his long layoff due to a shoulder and elbow injury in 2019.
He also interacted with hockey team captain Manpreet Singh, athlete Dutee Chand, five-time world champion MC Mary Kom, table tennis player Sharath Kamal, young shooters Saurabh Chaudhury and Elavenil Valarivan, who hails from Maninagar, which was Modi’s constituency when he was an MLA in Gujarat.