Malleswari: Mirabai's Olympic silver medal is "like oxygen" for weightlifting

India's first woman to win an Olympic medal, Karnam Malleswari, said that the sports culture will grow in the country after India's best-ever show in the Tokyo Games.

Mirabai Chanu became the first Indian to win a weightlifting medal since Karnam Malleswari claimed a bronze at the 2000 Sydney Games.   -  PTI

Sydney Olympics bronze medallist Karnam Malleswari believes Mirabai Chanu's silver in the recent Tokyo Games is "like oxygen" for Indian weightlifting and it will inspire youngsters to take up the sport.

Malleswari, who had won a weightlifting bronze in the 2000 Olympics, also said that the sports culture will grow in the country after India's best-ever show in the Tokyo Games.

“After 20 years, Mirabai (Chanu’s) medal has come, so it is doing work like oxygen for us. I think in the future, because of this medal, many children have got motivation and in future more medals will come,” Malleswari told reporters after inaugurating ‘The Knee Clinic’ in Mumbai.

READ |Cover story: Mirabai Chanu - An Olympic legacy etched in silver

Talking about India's performance in Tokyo 2020 Games, Malleswari said, "We have won seven medals. We have performed well and happiest thing is Neeraj Chopra, won the gold in athletics, where we even cannot think of a medal.”

"Support is given by Indian government, SAI, Sports Ministry are playing their roles.”

“Government supported Olympians to a large extent and they were given the best facilities and training and we saw its results," said the former weightlifter, who is the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal.

She said because of the government support and good performance of the athletes, parents are allowing their children to take up to sport as a career.

"There is awareness among the public. Earlier, there was a dilemma whether to make a career or not, but today the players can make a 100 per cent career (in sports).

"If you win an Olympic medal, you become a celebrity and get financially settled. Now the parents are also supporting.

In the future, I see a good sports culture growing in India and there will be many medallists,” added the 46-year-old.

"Twenty years back there was talk of cricket everywhere, but now Olympic sports are getting promoted, so as a result of which we are seeing seven medals in Olympics."

Talking about the ongoing Tokyo Paralympics, she said, "We won a silver today. First Deepa Malik won the medal (in Paralympics) and now this (Bhavinaben’s medal) is the second one.

“I watched her (Bhavina's) match, she played well, she lost the first round, but did well in the second. She won a silver, I am very happy,” she said.

READ |Karnam Malleswari on her 2000 Sydney Olympics medal: A bronze worth a gold!

She also recollected an anecdote from the 2000 Sydney Olympics when current national badminton coach P. Gopichand came running to her room to see the bronze medal she had won.

“When my medal came, Gopi (Gopichand) knocked on my door, he asked whether I could take my medal in hand. I said wear it, it is our country’s medal.

"My medal was the only one in Sydney games, today there is sports culture in India, sports medals (are coming). I am happy that the huddle which was there, I broke it and on that path the players are walking and winning medals,” she said.

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