As the Indian men’s hockey team captain Manpreet Singh received the cash award of Rs 2.51 crore from the Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh during a function here, he was patted on the back by international golfer Jeev Milkha Singh, son of legendary athlete Milkha Singh. Also cheering for him was Kabir Singh Bhomia, grandson of three-time Olympic medallist and former Indian hockey captain Balbir Singh Senior.
With the Indian hockey team winning a bronze medal at Tokyo Olympics – India’s first medal in hockey in 41 years – it was an emotional moment for Manpreet and his Men in Blue. It also happened to be the 73rd anniversary of India’s gold medal feat in hockey at 1948 London Olympics on Thursday and Manpreet sounded emotional on being honoured on the same day.
“To be part of the Indian hockey team, which created history after 41 years, means a lot to each one of us . We know that Balbir Singh Senior Sir and Milkha Singh Sir would be blessing us from the heavens. It was a result of hard work and sacrifices by each player of the team. Hopefully, this medal will only motivate us and our next target is next year’s CWG as well Asian Games, from where we can qualify for Paris Olympics. India will also host the next world cup and it will be good opportunity for the team. Our effort will be to use this performance as a stepping stone,” shared an emotional Manpreet, who was also promoted to the rank of Superintendent of Police (SP) in the function as per the announcement made by the CM.
In the ceremony, which saw the Punjab government honouring 20 Olympic medallists and participants, hockey players were applauded the most. Gurjit Kaur and Reena Khokhar, members of the Indian women’s hockey team that was placed fourth at Tokyo Olympics, and discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur also earned great rounds of applause. Gurjit Kaur gave Punjab CM a hockey stick signed by the all members of the Indian women’s hockey team.\
22-year old Hardik Singh, whose grand-uncle Gurmail Singh was a member of the 1980 Moscow Olympics gold medal winning Indian hockey team, was cheered by his mother Kanwaljeet Kaur. “To return home with a bronze medal is a special feelings for us as a family. This medal has brought cheers to whole of India, It was only when we landed here that we realised how much this medal means to India,” said Hardik, who had scored in India’s quarter-final win against Great Britain.
Cousins Simranjeet Singh and Gurjant Singh too were busy meeting other players as well remembering their time growing together at their paternal and maternal village of Chahal Kalan near Batala. Simranjeet scored two goals in India’s 5-4 win over Germany in the bronze medal match at Tokyo. “It feels good to be rewarded by our home state. We hope that more and more kids will get inspired from this medal,” said Simranjeet. Gurjant, who trained at the Chandigarh Hockey Academy, too shared his thoughts. “After training in my village, I learnt the basics at Chandigarh Hockey Academy and to return to the same city with an Olympic medal is a moment to remember,” said Gurjant. Another Chandigarh Hockey Academy trainee Rupinder Pal Singh dedicated the medal to coach late Jasbir Singh Bajwa. “We wish that he was alive to see this day. His passion for hockey was something, which helped us reach where we are today,” shared Rupinder.
Kamalpreet Kaur, who finished sixth in the discus throw final at Tokyo, too sounded emotional. “With the whole country cheering for me in the final, I cannot forget the joy. While I missed on a medal, reaching the final has motivated me a lot and I hope to do better in future,” said Kaur.
However, Olympic gold winning javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who was to be presented with a cash award of Rs 2.51 crore by the Punjab government, could not attend the event in view of some engagements, the chief minister informed the gathering.
Ten Indian men hockey team players — Manpreet Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Mandeep Singh, Shamsher Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Hardik Singh, Simranjit Singh, Gurjant Singh and Dilpreet Singh — were given cheques of Rs 2.5 crore each.
Reena Khokhar, Gurjit Kaur and Kamalpreet Kaur were given Rs 50 lakh each. Men’s hockey team player Krishan Pathak was also given Rs 50 lakh.
Other participants at the Tokyo Games — boxer Simranjit Kaur, shooters Anjum Moudgil and Angadveer Singh, shot putter Tajinder Pal Singh Toor, race walker Gurpreet Singh and Paralympic badminton player (who will shortly participate in the paralympics) Palak Kohli got Rs 21 lakh each.
All the cash rewards were transferred online to the personal accounts of the players.
Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore, who is also Administrator of Union Territory of Chandigarh, Punjab Sports Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi were also present.
Amarinder said traditionally Punjab has been a land of sports and has produced several legends in different sports. “We will create better sports infrastructure and involve players in that and seek their suggestions,” he said, adding the state government would soon work out modalities for providing jobs to the medallists and asked the chief secretary to examine the matter on top priority before taking a final decision.
The CM also said schools and approach roads leading to the native villages of the players will be named after them. He asked the PWD and School Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla to identify such schools and roads so as to give due honour to the players who made everyone proud.
Pointing to Kamalpreet Kaur, the CM said in a lighter vein that his sports minister told him that she was fond of good food. “I will invite you and your family and treat you good food,” the chief minister said, adding that he will invite all the players who were present and will himself cook food for them.
Sports Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi announced that the state government will set up a women hockey academy in Jalandhar.
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