Olympic medallist Mirabai returns to warm but chaotic reception


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Inside the airport Mirabai was greeted with chants of Bharat Mata ki Jai by the staff

Mirabai Chanu shows her Tokyo Olympics silver medal as she poses with Sports Minister Anurag Thakur (right), former Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju (second from left) and her coach Vijay Sharma (left) during a felicitation in New Delhi on Monday. — SAI

New Delhi: Indian weightlifter Mirabai Chanu returned to the country on Monday after her superb silver medal-winning performance at the Tokyo Olympics, walking into sheer chaos after stepping out of the airport where social distancing went for a toss.

Chanu walked out of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, flanked by security and clad in a face shield and mask. “Happy to be back here in amidst so much love and support. Thank You so much,” she tweeted after landing.

Inside the airport, the 26-year-old was greeted with chants of Bharat Mata ki Jai by the staff present there and felicitated by officials of the Sports Authority of India among others.

Once out, the young star was mobbed by the waiting media, leading to a melee and had to be completely enveloped by security personnel as she made her way through.

Later, she met Sports Minister Anurag Thakur who hailed her for creating history by winning a first day medal at the Tokyo Olympics, an unparalleled feat by an Indian athlete in the history of the Games.

“First day, first medal, nobody did it. You brought smiles in the faces of 135 crore Indians and the entire nation is proud of you,” Thakur said during a felicitation ceremony of the diminutive weightlifter and her coach Vijay Sharma at his residence in Delhi.

“You made history. It’s a big achievement,” Thakur added.

The late night felicitation function was also attended by Minister of Sports (Sports) Nisith Pramanik, Thakur’s predecessors and current central ministers in the Modi government Kiren Rijiju and Sarbananda Sonowal, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Development of North-Eastern Region G Kishan Reddy among others.

“Her (Chanu’s) success also shows how the TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme) program has played a crucial role in boosting the development of our athletes and India’s medal hopes,” the Sports Minister said.

He added that Chanu’s success will inspire a generation of athletes, especially from the north-eastern region of the country.

Chanu dedicated her medal to the entire nation, had it not been for the support of the government her dream would have remained unfulfilled.

“This is a dream come true for me. I have been training for this moment for years and I am glad that it came right for me at the biggest stage of them all, the Olympic Games. I dedicate the medal to the entire nation who stood by me and supported me in my trying times,” she said.

“The trip to USA last year to address issues related to my shoulder was instrumental in my journey to this medal. I am grateful to the Government of India for all the support without which this journey to an Olympic medal wouldn’t have been possible,” she added.