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‘Rich’ haul for heroes

Olympic medallists Gagan Narang, MC Mary Kom, Sushil Kumar, Vijay Kumar, Saina Nehwal and
Yogeshwar Dutt during a felicitation, in New Delhi, on Thursday. (PTI)

New Delhi: Cash awards continued to pour in for the Olympic medal winners as they were felicitated by different organisations throughout Thursday in the capital.

The day started with a Faridabad-based university conferring the Manav Rachna Kirti Purashkar on rifleman Gagan Narang for his bronze medal-winning performance in the 10m air rifle event. The Hyderabad-based shooter was also presented with a cash award of Rs 11 lakh.

“I want my medal to travel across the country so that it inspires the coming generations,” Narang said during the function. In the evening, the medal winners had little time as they had to attend back-to-back functions organised by the ministry of steel and ministry of sports.

At the Vigyan Bhavan, steel minister Beni Prasad Verma presented cheques of Rs 25 lakh each to two silver medallists at the London Games — shooter Vijay Kumar and wrestler Sushil Kumar. The four other bronze winners — Narang, Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal and Yogeshwar Dutt — were all richer by Rs 20 lakh each.

The Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) also honoured Mary Kom. While ‘Magnificent Mary’ received Rs 11 lakh, also present on the occasion was the men’s boxing squad. The sports ministry function at the Dhyan Chand Sports Complex turned out to be a chaotic affair though the ministry was quick to recognise the achievements of the athletes.

At the function, six young talented sportspersons from “come and play scheme” of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) presented cheque of special cash awards to medal winners. Vijay Kumar and Sushil Kumar received Rs 30 lakh each, while the rest received Rs 20 lakh each.

While the organisers’ inability to control the crowd made things difficult for the 47 members of the Indian contingent, present in the function, more embarrassing was the announcement over the loud speakers.

Narang was declared a silver medallist and Yogeshwar Dutt was called Yogendra Dutt. Saina Nehwal was repeatedly called Sania Nehwal. Worse was the case of shooter Joydeep Karmakar. The winner of fourth place in the 50m prone in London was introduced as an archer! Karmakar was officially ranked fifth in the world by the international shooting federation on Thursday evening.

Sports minister Ajay Maken, however, said that India would aim at winning 25 medals in the 2020 Olympics. “Looking at India’s performance in this year’s Olympics, we will keep a long term aim and try to go for 25 medals in 2020,” Maken said. “The Olympians are our country’s heroes. They are our treasure. The country is proud of them and of their achievements,” he added.

The Olympians are also to meet President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in the next couple of days.