NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has congratulated the Indian men's badminton team for winning the Thomas Cup, saying it was an epochal moment in the history of the sport in the country, and added that he could well understand the pressure the team would have withstood on way to winning gold.
India defeated 14-time champions and favourites Indonesia 3-0 in the final to lift their maiden Thomas Cup in Bangkok recently after previously reaching the semifinals in 1952, 1955, and 1979.
The Prime Minister had invited the Thomas Cup-winning team and the Uber Cup side following their heartening performances in badminton's premier global team events, and the players enthusiastically shared their winning moments with Modi.
The PM said it was the fulfilment of the dream of 1.25 billion Indians, who have waited for seven decades for this moment, adding that it's not a small achievement.
"The win will fill the youth of our country with new enthusiasm and energy. For a country of 1.25 billion people, it (winning the Thomas Cup) is the fulfilment of their dreams, a dream they have seen for seven decades... It's not a small achievement," said the PM.
"You don't know what you have achieved. When you meet with success on such a big stage, then the ecosystem of the sport in the country changes, the sports culture gets a massive boost, it fills the country with confidence," added Modi.
Modi also said that the Indian women's team might have missed a medal in the Uber Cup this time around but he was confident they would definitely win it the next time around. The women's team, which also included two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu, lost to Thailand in the quarterfinals.
"We will wait but will also find ways to ensure that you (women's team) win a medal (in Uber Cup). I am confident that we will not have to wait long, because I see that commitment and fire in you," added Modi.
"Our women's team has, time and again, shown how good they are as players. And I can see it very clearly that it's only a matter of time... if not this time, then certainly next time, you are the ones who will return home winners," said Modi.
The Prime Minister also said that the new motto in India was, 'Yes, we can do it'. "It has become the new strength of India and you (sportspersons) are the flag-bearers of the movement. Our competitors might be very strong, look invincible, but for us it is important that we know where we want to reach. This is the motto of our youth today."
The Prime Minister said that the expectations of the country had gone up after the exploits of the shuttlers.
"You have to remember that the expectations have gone up after the triumph, and the pressure to perform will only increase, which is not a bad thing. One should not succumb to pressure, we have to turn pressure into positive energy, our strength. And I am confident you will do it," he added, as players like Kidambi Srikanth, Lakshya Sen and HS Prannoy, among others, listened with rapt attention.
The PM also lauded the performance of Indian sportspersons over the last few years, saying they have really come up in a big way, and "they have tried to surpass their own expectations".
"In the last 7-8 years, Indian sportspersons have made several records, be it at the Olympics, Paralympics, etc... this morning (Saturday), I met the Deaflympics athletes... they have given such fine performances. Today, parents are coming forward and motivating children, the tide has changed, a new culture is coming in."
The PM termed it the golden era of Indian sports and gave the current athletes the credit for it.
"This is a golden era of Indian sports, whose creators are you all and your generation of sportspersons," said the PM.
He also said that it was time to take commitment to a different level.
"We have to continue this momentum. We should not allow it to go down. The government will go should-to-shoulder in your endeavour, every possible help will be rendered. I want to to tell athletes of the entire nation that 'we don't have to stop here... we have to set our targets and return home victorious," he said.