Neeraj Chopra‘s gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics was historical for India, as he was the first Indian ever to win a medal of any colour in athletics since Independence, and only the second individual gold medal for the country. Athletics Federation of India (AFI) Chief Adille Sumariwalla said that Chopra’s success has the capability to change the landscape of track and field in India forever.
“Since we had not won a medal in athletics, the whole pressure on our athletes was mental. The thought process was we have done everything but still we cannot win a medal,”
AFI chief Sumariwalla told journalists in a virtual press conference on Wednesday. Neeraj’s gold medals at the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games, the World Junior Championships and now the Olympics has shown the way for Indian athletes said Sumariwalla.
“He is just like every other Indian athlete, and if he can win a medal, so can everybody else. That’s removed a huge mental block from our Indian athletes. I believe this is just the beginning of many things to happen.”
“I think what you’re seeing is the emergence of a new India. A confident India.” Adille Sumariwalla on India after Neeraj Chopra’s Success
Sumariwalla touched on the recent bronze medal that the 4x400m mixed relay team won at the U20 World Championships, and said that Chopra had given them confidence to do so. One of the team members of the team, Barath Sridhar said that before Neeraj Chopra’s medal no one thought that India could win medals in athletics. But after this medal, it has given a confidence boost to the young athletes for the successful future of the country.
“I think what you’re seeing is the emergence of a new India. A confident India. I think Neeraj has done the trick.” Sumariwalla said that the athletes need to now believe in themselves, just as Summy, who the Chief talked about at the conference as well.
Summy will be running her first international competition at the U20 World Championships, yet said that she does not feel much pressure and will win a medal for India.
“Getting an Olympic medal is the ultimate prize. But, that’s no flash in the pan. Today you got to see the depth of our runners,” said Sumariwalla pointing at the mixed relay team. The potential of the Indian athletics team will now be seen as athletics gains momentum in India.