New Delhi, Oct 20: Ahead of the Olympic-qualifying Budapest Grand Slam event, Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju met the members of the Indian Judo team at his residence yesterday ahead of their departure to Hungary.
The Grand Slam contributes to the Olympic qualification which will take place between October 23 and October 25. The Indian judo team comprises of five judokas and coach Jiwan Sharma. Meeting the team, Rijiju said, "The team is leaving for Hungary today and I am hopeful that some of the athletes will qualify. Judo is a priority sport and the government will enhance capacity both in terms of training facilities and coaches."
The Minister stressed that the idea is to extend full support to the elite athletes while building up a talent pool of young athletes who can compete in the Olympics of 2024 and 2028. He said, "the Ministry will discuss a more exhaustive roadmap with the federation and plan ahead".
This will be the first tournament that the Indian judokas will be playing since the nationwide lockdown was imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, which had also led to the suspension of training and international air travel. Speaking about this, he said, "We used to play every month earlier, so it is really good to be playing again. From the entire Judo fraternity, would like to thank the Sports Ministry, Sports Authority of India, and the Judo Federation of India for organizing this for us."
Jasleen Singh Saini, Indian men’s judoka ranked world number 56 and a good prospect to qualify for next year’s Olympics, said, “I am feeling very positive after meeting the Sports Minister. He spoke to us and shared his knowledge which is really helpful. This will be the first tournament we will be played after the Covid lockdown."
On the other hand, Sushila Devi, the highest-ranked women’s judoka in the contingent ranked 41 in the world and an Olympic hopeful said, “This is the first time we have met the Sports Minister and he is really doing a lot for sports in India so with his encouragement, we are feeling very motivated. It is good to play once again after the lockdown and would like to thank SAI for the support in getting this international exposure organized for us. We will try to give our best.”
Around 645 competitors from around 81 countries will be participating in this tournament. Other judokas participating in the meet are Tulika Mann, Avtar Singh, and Vijay Yadav.