Modi had some light moments with the athletes, their coaches and family members over a breakfast meeting on Monday.
He asked bronze winning men’s hockey team goalkeeper PR Sreejesh whether he had learnt to speak Punjabi since the national team has a number of players from Punjab.
Drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh’s tall frame attracted “kitni height hai” (How tall are you) comment from the PM.
“You did not go to play volleyball?” the PM asked him.
The hockey team presented the PM with a stick signed by all the players.
Sprinter Duttee Chand, who crashed out in the first round of both the 100m and 200m races, gave a long introduction of herself.
In Pics: India’s stars of Tokyo Olympics shine at meet hosted by PM Narendra Modi
<p>Neeraj Chopra ended India’s 121-year wait for a medal in track and field when he won gold in the men’s javelin-throw event at the Tokyo Olympics (PTI Photo)</p>
To that, PM Modi said: “If politicians listen to you, they will make you contest elections.”
“You are from Odisha and how did you speak Hindi so well? Out of India’s population of 1.3 billion, 65 percent is youth. And out of those youth, only you (128 in the Tokyo Olympics) were able to represent the country.
“That is an achievement in itself. Your every effort is an inspiration and it is not that only medal winners inspire others.”
Modi also told Neeraj Chopra, PV Sindhu who were served Choorma and ice cream as promised earlier and Borgohain that he would auction the equipment they had presented to him.
“You have put your signature here. I will auction this, is it OK?,” Modi asked Chopra, who smiled in response, after he gave him a javelin he used during the Games.
Silver medal winner weightlifter Mirabai Chanu was asked about the back pain she had suffered some time back.
“You did not forget the people who had helped you in your journey,” Modi said in reference to Chanu presenting gifts to truck drivers who had ferried her from her home to training center in Manipur during her formative years.
When Borgohain presented a pair of gloves to him, Modi said: “Mey yeh pahenunga toh politics ka log bolega Modi gadbad karne wala hai.”
After Chopra was told to have his favourite ‘churma’, the PM asked how the youngster was so sure of winning gold after the second throw in the final that he raised his hands.
“After the second throw, you were in a victorious mood and you were celebrating. Were you very confident?” the PM asked the superstar javelin thrower.
From having ice-creams and Churma to discussing good health and fitness, from inspiring anecdotes to lighter moment… https://t.co/rhFwNoiXaV
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1629253555000
“It was a surprise for me. I can see how you have that balance. Vijay tumhara sar par nahi charta, parajay tumhara man me nahi beitha. Woh balancing chije dekha (success does not go to your head and defeat does not bog you down, I noted that balance).”
Chopra said the hard training gave him the confidence and he focussed on his own performance only.
Modi narrated a story about former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee whose comment about ‘gulab jamun’ led to the sweet dish being served most of the time when he graces an event.
“Atalji once talked about gulab jamun at a function and it appeared in newspapers. So, most of the time gulab jamun will be there when he is at a function. So, it needed a circular to be issued later on that other things should also be served at his functions.”
At the table of hockey players, Modi told Sreejesh that in cricket the wicketkeeper is shown all the time (on TV) while a hockey goalkeeper is not known (by people) even after winning an Olympic medal.
When Mary Kom apologised that she could not bring a medal this time, the PM said: “You have made a big contribution to Indian sports and because of you the country has drawn attention to women players. You have done so much.”
When Deepika said sorry for not bringing a medal, Modi said: “Kya sorry, umid chhodega toh khilari nahi hota (Athletes do not give up on hope).” Modi even held a microphone for Deepika to speak.
Modi then told Sindhu’s coach Park Tae-Sang, a South Korean, to visit Ayodhya.
“Have you ever visited Ayodhya? Your president’s wife, the first lady, came to a function in Ayodhya as a special guest. You should visit Ayodhya and know its history.”