The non-descript Khandra village in Haryana’s Panipat district erupted into celebrations when the news flashed that its talented son, Subedar Neeraj Chopra, VSM, had become the first Indian track and field athlete to win a medal (that too a gold) at the Olympics since the time India officially gained entry into the Games in 1928.
Friends and fans started gathering around the golden boy’s family home, where 19 members if his extended family live, as soon as news spread that he had secured his place in the final of the javelin thrown event in Tokyo.
His family said the entire village and even people from neighbouring villages had been watching his performance for the past few days on television sets installed at public places.
As the news of his victory was televised, people gathered at his residence, distributed sweets and danced to the tunes of Punjabi songs. ‘Chak de India’ slogans rent the village air when the ‘golden news’ was flashed on television.
His emotional father Satish Kumar, a farmer, said, “I feel elated that my son brought glory to the country.” He then added, brimming over with fatherly pride: “Yes, we were confident from day one that he will bring a gold medal for the country.”
Chopra’s elated mother, Saroj Devi, said the entire village would extend a grand welcome to her son on his return to his native village.
Neeraj’s uncle Bhim Chopra said not just the family but the entire village watched his marvelous performance to reach the podium.
Interestingly, India’s two gold medal-winning Olympians have a Chandigarh connection — Neeraj Chopra and shooter Abhinav Bindra. The shooter, who won the gold in Beijing in 2008, grew up in the Chandigarh suburb Zirakpur and Chopra studied at the DAV College, Sector 10, Chandigarh.
Congratulating Chopra on his triumph, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar announced a cash reward of Rs 6 crore and a Grade A government job for Chopra. He said: “The country was waiting for this moment for a long time.”
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also congratulated Neeraj for his historic feat. “Gold! Neeraj Chopra … you have created history and made the whole country proud,” the Chief Minister tweeted.
“Your 87.58m winning throw today will be a part of the legends of the Track and Field arena. India owes you! Jai Hind,” Singh added.
In a rare gesture, Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij, who’s normally seen to be letting his hair down, was seen dancing and distributing sweets among his staff when Neeraj scripted history. Vij was articulating the sentiment of the nation.