Neeraj Chopra Deserves Our Respect, Not Your Headline-Grabbing Efforts
Why is India's Olympic gold medallist being subjected to uncomfortable questions on his personal life?
Neeraj Chopra is one of the only two individual Olympic gold medallists in this country’s history. That’s how rare an Indian he is.
But for some, he is just been another little stepping stone to somehow make a viral video and get ‘trending’ on social media.
The fact that those two sentences can be said in one go, should make us uncomfortable, it should make us feel ashamed, and hopefully, it should make us introspect.
In the one month since Neeraj Chopra’s metamorphosis from an Under-20 World Champion and an Asian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist to the ultimate in the world of sports – an Olympic gold medallist – the 23-year-old national hero has been subjected to an interview where his relationship status seemed like the only answer of any importance to the nation, then there was a radio jockey who thought it was in great humour to subject him to a dance performance during an interview, and then a 72-year-old Padma Bhushan thought it appropriate to ask Neeraj about his training and sex life on a live online chat.
Don’t get me wrong. To critique a contemporary’s work is not how I do my business, but when that work starts to become a trend, there needs to be a voice, right? Just because Neeraj Chopra has been polite enough to not shut down these incredibly immature efforts at fame, it has apparently become some sort of signal for people to get even more absurd with their antics.
Ask yourself, would you dare to ask Abhinav Bindra about his relationship status or put up an uncomfortable dance performance for PV Sindhu or ask Virat Kohli about his sex life?
Would you dare?
You wouldn’t. I mean, if you’re of sane mind, you wouldn’t. Simply because – I think – you’d fear the takedown you know that would follow or else, you just respect the person enough to not do it.
Then why Neeraj?
Simply because the young champion hasn’t allowed his gold medal to also change who he inherently is? The simple, small town boy who prefers to give interviews in Hindi because he says he doesn’t want to speak in languages his neighbours back home won’t understand. The young man who has continued to stay true to himself.
He’s spoken out on matters he thinks important, he’s taken a stand where he deemed necessary, and he’s made every single fan of his proud.
He’s been the exact kind of sports hero this country has been pining for.
Think about it, when was the last time we saw a young sports star take a stand against politically motivated agenda that wasn’t scripted and copy pasted on 50 different Twitter handles?
It's taken forever for India to finally be able to say we have a world-class champion athlete who also has a voice, a voice of his own.
There is so much to ask Neeraj Chopra. There is so much more to understand from him. There is so much that we can help him do with his voice using the platform that we can give him.
Then why belittle yourself, and your name, with questions and antics that are not deserving of not just Neeraj but in fact any individual who you yourself have deemed important enough to interview?
We're talking about a prime-time television anchor, India’s leading RJ, and a Padma Bhushan. Is this what you want to show the next generation of Indian athletes, that this is the amount of respect you think an Olympic champion deserves from you?
Because that is the message you are sending.
Neeraj Chopra has spent almost every day of the last 10 years away from his family, trained every moment he could, watched videos to learn from javelin legends he didn’t have access to and dreamed every moment of standing on top of that podium in Tokyo.
And now, when his dreams have come true, let's do our bit for everything that he has given up so India could say we have two individual gold medallists.
Let’s show we’re thankful for his sacrifices.
Let’s start by giving him some respect.
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