Neeraj Chopra created history by winning India’s first gold in athletics at Tokyo Olympics 2020.
In all, India has only 10 gold medals at the Olympics out of which eight have been won by the men’s hockey team. After Abhinav Bindra’s gold in men’s 10m air rifle shooting at Beijing 2008, Neeraj Chopra is the second individual to win gold.
This is our first-ever gold in track and field events since 1896 (the first held Olympics). His gold has taken India’s medal count to seven medals.
As per news reports, Chopra has been hospitalised due to high fever. He has been attending felicitation events, meeting politicians and giving interviews since he returned. He has been going from one event to another, posing for endless photographs every day without catching rest, all this while facing the most embarrassing questions in interviews.
A recent interview by Red FM hosted by RJ Malishka with Chopra has gone viral on social media and sparked a controversy. She posted a video on Twitter where she and her team can be seen dancing in front of the Olympic gold medalist over a Zoom call. The clip has been shared extensively receiving widespread criticism.
Do you think these #Malishka aunties would’ve done this to arrogant cricketer pricks who’d have put them in their place immediately? They did this to #NeerajChopra cuz he’s humble & unassuming & they thought they’d get away with their class privilege & gender ticket.
— Abhijit Iyer-Mitra (@Iyervval) August 20, 2021
In an exclusive interview, the radio jockey and her team were dancing to the tunes of ‘ Ude jab jab zulfein teri’ while Neeraj Chopra looked visibly embarrassed.
If that was not enough, when the RJ returned to her seat, she exclaimed, “Haii, Kitna mazaa aaya! Sorry, hum ne zyada toh nahin cheda aapko (So much fun! Sorry, I hope we didn’t tease you a lot)?”
She continued and asked him for a hug (jadu ki jhappi) while hugging the screen. One could see how uncomfortable he was as he folded his hands and replied, “Namaste! Aise hi durr se.”
She: Jaadhu ki jappi,abhi😒
**uncomfortable smile by #NeerajChopra ** followed by sensible reply"Ji aisey hi dhoor se & folds his hands🙏" this show is 101 ways to make your guest uncomfortable. FYI: He is a world class athlete+ArmyOfficer+India's 1stGold medalist(F&T)Olympics pic.twitter.com/xaXEkBhMI6
— Siri (@shasiri17) August 19, 2021
Neeraj Chopra has achieved something that very few athletes have till now. He is a world-class athlete, an army officer and a world champion. He needs to be treated with respect. We all know it takes years of hard work, sacrifices and training to make a name for yourself in sports. You have to fight the system, struggle for years, be resilient, and build character.
What happened during the interview was utterly embarrassing and uncalled for. Imagine if this was not a Zoom call. What would have happened? In all likelihood, the RJ would have hugged Chopra to congratulate him on the win. Can it be considered correct?
What if the genders were reversed; wouldn’t it be an insult and embarrassment? What if the same thing had happened to a woman, where a bunch of men would be dancing in front of her, asking her for a hug? How would she and the rest of us have reacted?
When it is not okay to hug or dance in front of a woman; it is definitely not okay to do the same with men!
Is this the way we show our admiration and respect for an Olympic winner? We need to maintain dignity and have basic etiquettes in place while interviewing our winners and treating them with respect. We are a country with a population of 136.64crores (2109) and we have had only 10 gold medals since the Olympics started. Is this how we treat our champions?
A question we need to ask ourselves is whether this would have been done in front of any other athlete. Would it be considered okay to dance in front of Kapil Dev or Viswanathan Anand? Does the thought of it make you uncomfortable? I really hope it does.
I have seen interviews where older male athletes, and even some younger cricketers, are addressed as ‘Sir’ during interviews. So, why is Neeraj Chopra being treated so casually? Is it because of his looks? Because it definitely feels like that.
In another interview by Navika Kumar, he was asked irrelevant questions like, “You are the most eligible bachelor of the country. How do you feel? You are better looking than a superstar and currently, you have a greater following than any film actor.”
He replied that he would like to focus on sports currently as that is more important. The following day the headlines read, “Exclusive big revelation by Neeraj Kumar: Good news for girls! No, I don’t have a girlfriend. My only focus now is sports.”
#Exclusive BIG REVELATION by Neeraj Chopra | Good news for girls!
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) August 10, 2021
Dear news channels and journalists, I would like to speak on behalf of all the girls in this country: we don’t really care if Neeraj Chopra has a girlfriend. We don’t want to know about his love life or his plans of getting married. But what we do want to know is the struggles he faced to get where he is now. We want to know how he is training for the upcoming championships and what we as a country can do for him.
I don’t think we need to stoop so low for viewership. Whatever happened to good journalism? Is it so difficult to ask the right and relevant questions? Times have changed and people look out for good journalism, let us not take the power of the pen and media for granted.
We need more articles and interviews that inspire the younger generation to take up sports. We need to do more for our athletes and invest in them. The need of the hour is to have better sports facilities, better training and more opportunities. Many of our medallists are from remote villages who have struggled to make a name for themselves.
A few years ago, Sania Mirza was asked by an eminent journalist about her plans of ‘settling down’ and motherhood, to which she gave a befitting reply,
“You sound disappointed that I’m not choosing motherhood over being number one in the world at this point of time. But I’ll answer your question anyway. That’s a question I face all the time as a woman, that all women have to face — the first is marriage and then it’s motherhood. Unfortunately, that’s when we’re settled, and no matter how many Wimbledons we win or number one in the world we become, we don’t become settled. But eventually, it will happen, not right now. And when it does happen I’ll be the first one to tell everybody when I plan to do that.”
This immediately elicited an apology from the journalist, but the question created a huge hue and cry on social media platforms.
Where are we heading? This kind of journalism is shameful and embarrassing. We need to do much better than this. Our athletes deserve the respect that has been long denied to them —both male and female.
Neeraj Chopra’s gold is just the beginning and has given inspiration to so many Indian athletes. Let us encourage and uplift them. Don’t we all like the sound of our national anthem playing when we win? I know for a fact it is the best sound in the world and every Indian’s heart beats for it while their eyes fill with tears and their chest swells with pride. And the people who allow us to feel this honour should be treated with dignity and civility.