Incheon Games performance is inspiring: Sarbanada Sonowal

Terming the performance of Indian athletes at the Incheon Asian Games as "inspiring", the government of India on Monday felicitated the medal winners at a ceremony here and gave them cash awards.

Incheon Games performance is inspiring: Sarbanada Sonowal

New Delhi: Terming the performance of Indian athletes at the Incheon Asian Games as "inspiring", the government of India on Monday felicitated the medal winners at a ceremony here and gave them cash awards.

India won 57 medals, including 11 golds, at the 17th edition of the Games in the South Korean city.

The gold medal winners were given cheques of Rs 20 lakh each while the silver and bronze medallists got Rs 10 and six lakh each respectively.

"The achievements of our sports persons are inspiring, considering the high level of competition. Those who have won gold should strive to retain that and look forward to Rio Olympics (in 2016)," Sports Minister Sarbanada Sonowal said in his address.

"Those, who have won silver and bronze should also look forward Rio and all upcoming competitions," he added.

Sonowal was effusive in his praise for the Indian men's hockey gold after a gap of 16 years.

"The gold in hockey has breathed a fresh life in sport. The entire country salutes you," he said.

The hockey players got Rs 10 lakh each since the gold medal came in a team event.

Sonowal promised more support to the athletes for their future training and added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was taking a keen interest in development of sports in the country.

He also said the government will select 150 elite athletes for special training keeping in mind medals at the Rio Games.

Tennis star Sania Mirza, who won a gold in mixed doubles with Saketh Myneni and a bronze in women's doubles with Prarthana Thombare, was the first athlete asked to addressed the huge gathering.

"It's a lot of hard work not winning the medals but also to reach there (to compete). Being an athlete it is a dream of holding the flag and that national anthem is played (at Games). It's a privilege to have achieved that," Sania said.

"Thanks for hosting the event. I hope we can do better. Congratulations to all who won ," Sania added.

Indian hockey captain Sardar Singh in his address thanked the authorities for providing them facilities at their training camps.

"We will try to win more and more medals," the soft-spoken player said.

The men's hockey team got a huge round of applause from the gathering, which included three Union Ministers apart from former shooter and now MP, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore.

A nervous Mary Kom, who created history by becoming the first woman boxer from the country to win an Asiad gold, said she felt a lot of pressure to deliver in Incheon.

"I am not good in speech. I am happy. I was very scared before going. I was thinking which medal will I get? I met minister sir (Sonowal) and he kept saying 'win a gold, win a gold'. I said, sir please don't put pressure on me but finally I won and I am happy," she said.

In an apparent reference to fellow boxer Sarita Devi, who lost her semifinal in a controversial verdict and was robbed of a shot at gold, Mary Kom in her message, asked sports- persons not to give up.

"This is one Asian Games. There will be other opportunities, just don't give up. You can do it. I have will (power) and I don't know from where it comes. I have three kids but I still have lot of fighting spirit. You can do it too," she said.

Rathore, a silver medallist at Athens Olympic Games, said as an administrator he would try to help athletes and enjoined all the dignitaries on the dais to play their role.

"Let's all play a game so that athletes' life becomes more better, so that we can have more and more champions sitting here."

Jiji Thomson, Director General, Sports Authority of India said India was performance was satisfactory if not outstanding.

He drew attention to the fact that women players' contribution has increased in the medal tally.

"In 2010, the women athletes won 20 medal out of 65 and at 2014, they have won 27 of 57, which is 47.37 percent. One lesson that we have learnt from these Games that we should play to our strength and the best (athletes) should always represent the country," he said.

BJP MP and cricket administrator Anurag Thakur took a dig at Information and Broadcasting ministry, saying that Doordarshan was broadcasting some old sports recording from the CWG 2010.

"When will it change? We will have to take games to villages. Do they have no right to watch athletes," he said.

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