London Olympics silver medal winning shooter Vijay Kumar was on Wednesday accorded a reception befitting a triumphant soldier.
Vijay’s grievances of not getting a promotion by his employer Army for his achievements took a backseat amidst joyous scenes on his arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here.
Representatives from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) also joined hundreds of Army personnel and fans to welcome the new shooting hero.
Around 300 Armymen from the Dogra Regiment and Rajasthan Rifles held placards and banners — flashing slogans like ‘Welcome Vijay, Army’s pride,’ ‘Mission Olympics Wing welcomes Vijay,’ ‘Congratulations for the stupendous performance’ and ‘Subedar Vijay Kumar, Army’s gift to Nation’ — in honour of the champion shooter.
They were joined by Vijay’s family members and some close relatives who had travelled all the way from Harsaur village in Hamirpur district of Himachal Pradesh to be part of the momentous occasion.
Vijay’s father Banku Ram appeared the happiest man on earth. He was not tired of accepting compliments from well-wishers and giving interviews to the media.
“This is the proudest moment of my life. The whole country is proud (of Vijay’s feat),” said Banku. “Me, my wife, my mother, my nephew and several relatives and well-wishers have come in a vehicle to receive Vijay,” he added.
Vijay’s grandmother Brahmi Devi defied her frail frame to express her excitement. “I am very happy,” she said with folded hands, thanking God for all the happiness bestowed on her family.
“There is festive atmosphere in our village. Once he goes back to the village, there will be several receptions for him,” said an ecstatic Rajkumar, a cousin of the ace shooter.
When Vijay emerged from the exit gate to a fitting welcome of Sare jahan se achcha played by the Army band, he was showered with colourful garlands.
As he waded through the crowd amidst beating of drums to the well-decorated open jeep, Vijay was mobbed by the media.
With Dogra Regiment soldiers lined up on either side, Vijay made his way to the open jeep and held aloft his Olympic silver medal after boarding the vehicle. His face shone like a warrior.
Vijay is the first ever Indian to win an Olympic medal in 25m rapid fire pistol.
“It is a fantastic reception and I am very happy that Army has done this for me. It made me feel that I had done something extraordinary,” Vijay told The Hindu.
Soon, he was joined on the jeep by his father Banku Ram, Russian coach of the Army Pavel Smrinov, National coach Prof. Sunny Thomas apart from a few Army officers.
Request for promotion
Meanwhile, Vijay had requested the Army to consider him for an out-of-turn promotion.
“The Sports Ministry has said that an Olympic medallist would be offered a job equivalent to the IAS rank. I request the Army to give me a similar promotion. If the Army gives it, I will continue. Or else, I will consider other options,” said Vijay.
The SAI, which supported Vijay’s training in the run-up to the London Olympics, was eager to hire him. “There is an offer of Group ‘A’ cadre post for Vijay. Here he can hone his skills as well as train others.
The Director General of SAI has spoken to him. It is up to him to consider the offer,” said Radhica Sreeman, Director (team wing), SAI.
“I always had confidence in his abilities. I had said he would be a dark horse,” said chief National coach Prof. Thomas.
NRAI adviser Baljeet Singh Sethi hailed Vijay’s performance. “The investment on him has given results. He is so calm and so different from others,” he said.