New Delhi: India’s Olympic contingent, including history-making javelin throw gold medallist Neeraj Chopra, returned to the country Monday. They were received enthusiastically by officials even as a frenzied crowd gathered outside the airport to welcome the heroes of the country’s best ever Games campaign. Neeraj Chopra was no doubt, the centre of attraction.
The athletes were welcomed by a Sports Authority of India (SAI) delegation headed by its director general Sandeep Pradhan. Athletics Federation of India (AFI) head Adille Sumariwala also accompanied him.
The athletes were garlanded and presented with bouquets on arrival. They were applauded by the airport staff as they made their way out to utter chaos due to the huge presence of supporters and media personnel. The huge gathering meant that social distancing norms went for a toss as people rushed in to catch a glimpse of the stars of the historic performance.
India surpassed their previous best haul of six medals achieved in the 2012 London Games with one gold, two silver and four bronze medals in Tokyo.
While Chopra added the golden sheen to the campaign, the silver medals came from weightlifter Mirabai Chanu and wrestler Ravi Kumar Dahiya. The bronze medals were claimed by boxer Lovlina Borgohain, shuttler P V Sindhu, the men’s hockey team and wrestler Bajrang Punia.
Of the medal winners, Chanu and Sindhu had returned to India earlier after the completion of their events. Covid-19 protocols required athletes to leave Tokyo within 48 hours of the medal ceremony.
India had sent a 228-strong contingent for the Tokyo Games, including more than 120 athletes. This was India’s biggest ever presence at the quadrennial showpiece which took place after a delay of one year due to the pandemic.