Rio-bound athletes hail PM's send-off gesture
New Delhi, July 4 (IANS) A number of Rio-bound athletes including India's flag-bearer Abhinav Bindra on Monday took to social networking site Twitter to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who personally met the contingent for a send-off ceremony here.
Wishing them the very best, the Prime Minister shook hands with the athletes and also obliged them for selfies at an event at the Manekshaw Centre.
Bindra, India's lone individual Olympic gold medallist, who will make his final appearance at Rio, said, "For the first time ever there is a send-off by the @PMOIndia @narendramodi for the Olympic Team. What a great gesture.#respect."
London Olympics bronze medallist grappler Yogeshwar Dutt also thanked the PM for his gesture.
"It was great gesture of our Honourable Prime Minister @narendramodi to wish athletes personally for #Rio2016," he tweeted.
Hailing the PM for his support, young boxer Shiva Thapa said, "Great to meet our Honourable PM Shri @narendramodi ji..Thank you for all your support.jai hind."
Two-time World championship bronze medallist shuttler PV Sindhu called the meeting motivating.
"Meeting PM Modi was motivating and encouraging, hope to bring at least 2 to 3 medals," Sindhu said.
Shooter Heena Sidhu tweeted a photograph along with the PM, with the caption reading: "Send off to #RioOlympics by the Prime Minister #NarendraModi. We all had a good time."
The dignitaries who attended the function were Sports Minister Jitendra Singh, Sports Secretary Rajiv Yadav, All India Council of Sports (AICS) chairman Vijay Malhotra, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President N Ramachandran, Secretary General Rajeev Mehta, Hockey India (HI) President Narinder Batra, HI Secretary General Mohammed Mushtaq Ahmed among others.
Notable athletes who met the Prime Minister were shooters Jitu Rai, Manavjit Singh Sandhu, Heena Sidhu, shuttlers Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth, long distance runners Sudha Singh and Lalita Babar among others.
The Indian women's hockey team along with chief coach Neil Hawgood and coach C R Kumar were also in attendance.
National badminton coach Pullela Gopichand and boxing coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu were also part of the gathering.
So far, more than 100 athletes from 13 sports disciplines have qualified for the quadrennial extravaganza in Rio de Janeiro, making it the largest Indian contingent ever. The previous highest was 83 that the country sent in the 2012 Olympics in London.
More athletes are likely to qualify in the coming days, and the ministry and the IOA are expecting more than 110 to represent the country in the Games.
Over 200 nations will be participating in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, scheduled to begin on August 5.