SPORT

Hero’s welcome overwhelms Anand

Sports Reporter

‘Never in my dreams did I expect such a reception’

Chennai: Viswanathan Anand is seldom at a loss for words, but the World chess champion was stunned at the reception he received in his home city.

Huge groups of children and chess lovers representing various institutions and associations had assembled at the Chennai Airport on a hot Wednesday afternoon, hoping to catch more than a fleeting glimpse of Anand.

Banners and music only increased the sense of anticipation after it was announced that his arrival would be delayed.

With the number running into thousands, there was commotion when he arrived.

The media and his fans were engaged in a tussle for vantage positions after the World champion walked out of the domestic terminal with his wife Aruna.

Anand miraculously made it past the melee unscathed, but only just, and headed towards the makeshift dais that was put up to for the garlanding ceremony.

“Never in my dreams did I expect such a reception,” he said.

The 38-year-old was then taken to Kasturba Nagar third cross street, where a chariot was readied to take him to his residence via Indira Nagar, LB Road and MG Road, with the idea of giving his fans and well-wishers an opportunity to greet him.

Calm and accommodating as ever, Anand obliged every single autograph request and shook hands with all his fans through the course of his chariot ride, which was part of the TNSCA’s and Velammal Institution’s reception programme.

Curious onlookers were delighted when he acknowledged their wishes and greetings, while school kids enthusiastically waved from their buses.

Ninety-year-old Bhau Padsalgikar, a former National player, had made it all the way from Maharashtra to meet the genius. Anand’s residence wasn’t spared of the commotion when he reached, but he did manage to put his thoughts together.

“I’m at a loss for words actually. It’s unbelievable. I did not expect this. I thank all the people who made it, specially the children, for braving the heat and waiting for me,” he said.

“It (the World triumph) is sinking in only now,” he said. He added that both the wins — of 2000 and 2007, were equally important. Anand got a well-deserved break late in the evening, still in a state of disbelief.

For his achievements and his role in revolutionising the sport in the country, he deserved the overwhelming reception.

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