Many of them may be too young to apply for a driving licence, but now, they are all the proud owners of brand new Nano cars. On the concluding day of the National School Games here on Saturday, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav awarded Nano cars to the 10 best athletes.
Middle-distance runner Anjana Thamke from Nashik, who got three golds in the under-17 category, was among the lucky ones. Her long-time coach Vijender gave her a ride around the track. “Besides running, I will now also have to teach her driving,” he quipped.
The other winners included Apurva Ghagre (Maharashtra), Chitra P U (Kerala) and Dutee Chand (Orissa). Besides, each of the 2,600-odd athletes who participated in the event, held from January 29-February 2, was awarded a voucher that can be exchanged for a bicycle.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav also announced a cash reward of Rs 21,000 for the star performers, including Kerala’s long-distance runner Chitra P U, who won four golds in the under-19 section. The daughter of daily wagers, the 17-year-old said: “My parents were unable to raise funds for my sister’s wedding. This will help them. Besides, we are now a family that has a car.”
Her coach added: “The UP government’s gesture will certainly give her a push.”
Explaining the reason for mass distribution of bicycles, Akhilesh said: “There isn’t any athlete in the country who doesn’t use a bicycle as a means to keep fit, and reach his/ her destination also. It’s the most important means of transport for them. That’s why my father decided to give bicycles to the athletes,” he said. Incidentally, the bicycle is also the Samajwadi Party’s poll symbol.
Abhijit Singh, 16, from Jind, said: “I walk almost 10 kilometres to the stadium everyday for practice. My family cannot afford to buy a cycle for me. I always had to ask my fellow athletes for a lift, but now I will have my own cycle. It also means that I can reach home quickly after practice and help my father in the field.”
For a village of about 1,000 households and 6,500 population, Safai has an impressive sporting infrastructure. Besides two stadiums that can host top-level competitions, a residential sports academy is also coming up at rapid pace.