Indian companies and governments promised cash and gifts worth more than two million dollars to javelin star Neeraj Chopra after he won India’s first-ever Olympic athletics gold medal.
The 23-year-old, who two years ago underwent surgery on a career-threatening elbow injury, threw 87.58 metres in the Tokyo Olympic stadium on Saturday to send his country into raptures.
Chopra led India’s most successful Olympics ever with a gold, two silver medals and four bronze. He will also lead a cash bonanza for the winning athletes.
The government in his home state of Haryana said it would give a 60 million rupee ($800 000) bonus to Chopra.
Other state governments offered another $400 000 between them and a leading education company promised $270 000.
India had to make its athletes “heroes so that we transform ourselves from a sport-loving nation to a sport-playing nation,” said Byju Raveendran, owner of the Byju’s education tech company.
The Indian cricket board, the BCCI, and the Chennai Super Kings Indian Premier League team vowed to give $135 000 each and Chopra will also get $100 000 from the Indian Olympic Association.
Other firms offered free air travel, luxury cars and cash gifts that took Chopra’s bonus over two million and more was expected before he returns to India.
All of the medal winners can expect big cash rewards for their return, with the IOA offering $53 750 for a silver, and $33 500 for a bronze.
India offered some of the most generous official rewards of any country for Olympic medals in Tokyo – though Singapore led the way among known benefits with more than $700 000 for a gold medal.
India’s cricket board said they would give $168 000 to the men’s hockey team for its bronze medal – the first in four decades. And state governments also promised hundreds of thousands to the team.
Wrestler Mirabai Chanu gave India a silver on day one of the competition and said she wanted to eat pizza. A well-known chain immediately said it would give her pizza for life.
Chanu has male wrestler Ravi Dahiya for company in getting silver while badminton ace P.V.Sindhu, wrestler Bajrang Punia, boxer Lovlina Borgohain and the hockey team won bronzes.
The medal count and stacks of cash is a dramatic turnaround for Indian sport. India won just two silvers at the 2016 Rio Olympics and athletes have long complained about the lack of resources put into their training.
Many former sports heroes fell into poverty after finishing their athletic career and have needed help from foundations such as one run by cricket icon Sunil Gavaskar.
Keshav Chandra Datt, a double Olympic hockey gold winner who recently died aged 95, was one of 19 former sports internationals given monthly cash allowances by Gavaskar’s The Champs Foundation.
The former India captain told AFP the 22-year-old foundation provides assistance to “Indian internationals who after retirement are struggling to get on in life.”
“We get to know about these athletes through media or word of mouth and then reach out to them while keeping their identity hidden,” he said.