Reacting to India's historic performance at the Tokyo Olympics, former Indian long jump and triple jump Asian Games gold medal-winner Anju Bobby George spoke out in favour of PM Modi's 'attention' to Indian sportspersons.
Anju came tantalisingly close to a medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004 when she had ended 5th and had recorded a personal best of 6.83 at the long jump event.
The now-retired athlete thanked PM Modi and his government's support behind India's marked improvement in the Tokyo Olympics events.
Recalling her days as an athlete especially during the Athens Olympics, Anju told Sony Sports channel, "During our time, even our Sports Minister was a visitor in Olympic village. Even after winning the World Championship medal, India celebrated in a big way but the Ministry side was nothing big. Yes, the Prime Minister (referring to Dr Manmohan Singh) congratulated me, otherwise, nothing was there."
Expressing how she misses being an athlete in present day India, Anju further added, "Our Indian government is giving much priority (to the athletes). The Prime Minister is directly calling them after winning the medals. No one wants to leave (that opportunity). Something big is happening in India. I am really missing out on fun and opportunities."
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Talking about India's current sporting culture, Anju mentioned how the present government has created infrastructure right from the grassroots level.
“They are supporting. They are behind us. The confidence they are giving to each athlete is showing the result. There is work (on the grassroots level). There are long-term plans. Sports Authority of India (SAI) is now planning for the 2028 Olympic Games and 2032 Olympic Games. This is how the system should work. And there are a lot of opportunities for the younger kids from the grassroots level. If you are talented enough, then, you will be noticed and will become a part of the system. Through this kind of support, (I am sure) India will be on the top one day.”
Anju said that the very fact that India had sports ministers who were actively involved in sports helped the country's cause at this year's Olympics.
“He (Kiren Rijiju, ex-sports minister) was very much into sport and he knows each athlete. Whenever we messaged or called, he was there. And he is ready to support. That is the kind of encouragement Rijiju sir was giving to our athletes. Even the new Minister (Anurag Thakur) comes from a sports background and he is also very good. So, this is the kind of support we are expecting from our Ministry and system. So, it’s not that they are celebrating only after the medal. They are there from the beginning,” Anju was quoted as saying by Sony Sports.