Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Tuesday, felicitated the medal winners from the recently-concluded Asian Games over a breakfast meeting at his residence and said sportspersons do as much for the country as political leaders.
"Had a great interaction with our athletes who won medals in 2014 Asian Games. They are truly India's pride!" Modi tweeted after the breakfast meeting, which was also attended by Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
India won 57 medals, including 11 gold, at the Asian Games in Incehon, Korea. The country finished eighth in the overall standings.
Congratulating those who had brought laurels for the country at the Asian Games, Modi expressed hope that the combination of his "enthusiasm" and the "spirit" of the sportspersons would bring good results for the nation.
Citing the successful launch of Mangalyaan by the nation's scientists recently, the Prime Minister said a sportsperson's achievements bring similar respect and pride for all Indians.
The Prime Minister urged the gathering to feel free to give their suggestions to him, and to call on him personally if they had anything specific to talk about.
He said they should consider him their "friend", an official release said.
He appreciated the efforts made for the "Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan" by boxer M C Mary Kom, who won a gold medal in the Asian Games, and Sachin Tendulkar. Modi said the two had much greater visibility than him while wielding the broom.
The Prime Minister said that the corporate world is now coming forward to promote specific sports, and this augurs well for the future. He urged award-winning sportspersons, who can speak well, to deliver talks in Universities to inspire the youth.
The gathering was also addressed by Sonowal, while the vote of thanks was proposed by Mary Kom.
"The Hon'ble Prime Minister has been taking keen interest in preparation of the teams and kept on asking me 'arre bhai, kaise chal raha hai?' (so what is happening?)," Sonowal said.
"As you all know, the Olympics 2016 is just round the corner. This is the time when we should take a solemn pledge that we will strive every nerve and muscle to bring glory to the nation in the coming Olympics. If our neighboring countries like China, Japan, South Korea and Kazakhstan could all do better than us, there is no reason why we should lag behind.
"Let me assure you that the Government of India will leave no stone unturned to ensure the best ever facilities for our sportspersons. We are also determined to clean up the system which is often criticised for its lack of professionalism and many unethical behaviors. There can be no gains without pains. I, on behalf of all in the Sports Ministry and SAI, congratulate all the medal winners," he added.