Olympic silver medallist Kumar returns to rousing Army welcome

Updated: Aug 08, 2012, 10:43 AM IST

New Delhi: Two days after he had threatened to quit his job for being denied a promotion, London Olympics silver medallist Subedar Vijay Kumar was on Wednesday accorded a rousing welcome by the Indian Army on his arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here.

"It is a really fantastic reception and I am really touched by it. This is the first time I am getting such a welcome," Kumar said after his arrival at the IGI from where he was driven to the Army headquarters on an open Gypsy.

A part of terminal 3 here went green as the Army personnel turned up in full force to receive the shooter who has done the country proud by clinching a silver in 25-m rapid fire pistol event, the lone white metal winner so far.

The place resonated not just with the sounds of drums and the traditional nagaras, the national anthem was also played at the background once the man of the moment`s Lufthansa 762 flight touched down early in the morning.

Soon after the shooter won his medal, Kumar had made it clear in London that he was unhappy that he had not got a single promotion in the last six years, despite some major sporting achievements at the national and international level.

Sports Minister Ajay Maken has taken up the shooter`s cause and has written to Defence Minister AK Antony, seeking special consideration for the athlete who has done India proud.

"I had done the country proud by winning at major events in 2006, Delhi 2010 (CWG) and London 2012 and was expecting promotion and decorations. As sportspersons we also have expectations," the 2010 Commonwealth Games multiple gold winner said on his return home.

He further said: "Offers have started to pour in from all quarters and the sports minister has openly said that I can be given a job in SAI at the IAS officer`s level. I am expecting a similar offer from Army."

Though he started serious shooting only after joining the Army, Kumar said he realised that this was something which he always had it in him.

Kumar may have just won a medal but he is already thinking about the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"I will take a brief break now and then again focus on the 2016 Olympics."

Beside the Army personnel from his 16 Dogra Regiment and Kumar's parents that comprised his father, mother and grandmother, also present with garlands were about 35-40 officials from the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI).

Chants of 'Vijay Kumar zindabad' and 'Indian Army zindabad' were heard all across. And basking in Kumar's glory was his father Banku Ram, a retired Subedar in the Army.

"A lot of hard work has gone into it. He has won a medal because he has spent a lot of time training away from home. He wouldn't have won had he spent those time at home," Ram said.

As far as his son's grievance with promotion was concerned, Ram left it to the shooter.

"That is his decision and I am not going to tell him anything. I am very happy with the Army," the beaming father told reporters.

NRAI advisor Baljeet Sethi said Kumar will from now on be getting all the privileges that an Olympic medallist deserve.

"We will definitely give him all the privileges, whatever is possible. We will take him to the Prime Minister and a felicitation has been planned, it will happen once our president (Raninder Singh) is back from London," Sethi said.

Sethi felt Kumar had it in him to win even a gold medal in London. "He is a quiet type of a person. He is not like the rest, he is always focused on shooting. I had always expected him to win and he could have, in fact, won a gold also."

National coach Sunny Thomas too, was hopeful of Kumar winning a medal, but he was expecting to bag 4-5 medals.

"Realistically, I had expected 4-5 medals. But then it's okay, last time we won one, and two this time. The colour may not be gold but the numbers are more this time," Thomas said.

India had finished their shooting campaign at the Games with a silver won by Kumar and a bronze in the 10m air rifle event clinched by Gagan Narang.

Top medal hopes Abhinav Bindra, who created history four years ago in the Beijing Games with a gold medal in 10m air rifle, and trap shooter Ronjan Sodhi emerged without a podium finish.

Meanwhile, Narang arrived in Mumbai last night according to Thomas, following which he left for Pune where his academy, 'Gun for Glory', is based.