Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar cheered for the Tokyo-bound Indian contingent athletes/ Photo credits: NDTV

Sachin Tendulkar, the legendary Indian cricketer, greeted the Indian contingent all the best for the Tokyo Olympics, which begin on July 23 in Japan's capital city. As the quadrennial global spectacle approaches after a year of postponement, top sports figures from across the country have urged Indians to root for their country.

Sachin Tendulkar pushed Indian athletes to do their best at the Tokyo Olympics in a video issued by the Indian cricket body (BCCI).

All of us have faced challenges, including our athletes. I know they are getting geared up to give their best performance in the Tokyo Olympics. Let's cheer for India.

Tendulkar said.

Earlier this year, India's women's team captain Mithali Raj and batting legend Virat Kohli joined the BCCI's Cheer For India initiative. Importantly, the Indian cricket board assisted the Indian athletes by providing Rs 10 crore in financial support in the run-up to the Games.

India has sent the most athletes to the Tokyo Olympics, with a total of 120 competitors competing in the games that were postponed last year because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Hopes are sky-high as India awaits looking forward to inspiration after what has been a rough 18-month period.

It will be intriguing to see if the competitors can improve on India's best-ever medal count of six from the London Games, given the Rio Games were a disappointment,  with only two medals in the form of (PV Sindhu's silver and Sakshi Malik's bronze).

Athletes from India have been arriving in Tokyo in groups. The likes of Swimmers, boxers, badminton players,  and table tennis players arrived at the Tokyo Games village from India, while the much-anticipated shooting stars arrived from their training facilities in Europe.

The shooters, in fact, commenced their training session on Monday after settling into the Games village. In Tokyo,  PV Sindhu and Sai Praneeth were also seen getting some practice, whereas swimmers Sajan Prakash and Maana Patel took to the pool.

Also on Tuesday, the Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar joined the national federation in giving India's athletics squad for the Tokyo Olympics an online send-off, urging them to appreciate the pressure and not be weighed down by it during the Games.

Tendulkar advised them in the virtual event to never give up on their dream of winning an Olympic medal.

A lot of people say there is win or loss in sport but my message is that the loss should be for your opponent and the win for you. You should go for the medal.

Tendulkar stated.

Don't stop chasing your dream and the dream should be the medal around your neck, National Anthem playing and the tri-colour flying high.

The track and field team will consist of 47 people, comprising 26 athletes. Eleven coaches, eight support staff, one team doctor, and one team leader will be on hand.

The AFI has nominated a 26-person team, which will depart for Tokyo on July 23.

Tendulkar stated that pressure is an athlete's constant companion in all sports, and that channelising it into higher performance is essential.

Pressure will be your constant companion, but you have raised the expectations with your performance.

Tendulkar told the 26 athletes in a virtual send-off ceremony.

Expectation of people has grown because of your improved performance. That is a good thing. I had always enjoyed pressure or expectation from the people. You have to change it to positive energy.

Neeraj Chopra, the star javelin thrower on whom the country is relying its aspirations to win a medal, concurred with Tendulkar that the country's athletes' expectations have risen as a result of their strong performance.

The country has expectations from us because we have produced better performance. We will do our best and try to meet the expectations by winning a medal.

Chopra said.

Drawing parallels with his illustrious cricket career, Tendulkar mentioned, "I was a small boy when India won the World Cup in 1983 and I wanted to hold that trophy one day.

That day came in 2011 and the no-host country had won the trophy then. That was the best moment in my life. You cannot wish to achieve more than that."

He also encouraged the players to battle through the tough times in their careers with fortitude.

I had faced it when I had the tennis elbow and the shoulder surgery. I had wanted to play matches to get back and I went to England.

After playing 15-16 years for the country, you may start thinking why one is going through all these regiments and routines. But till the time you have the enthusiasm to play for the country, you must chase the dream.

You have worked hard in these difficult times. And if nobody has any expectations of you as an athlete, you are in the wrong place. You will have heard that winning and losing are part of the sport. Let us win and let the others lose. When you wear the medal, see the Tricolour go up, and hear the National Anthem, it will be the biggest moment of your life," he further added.

Tendulkar gave an inspirational speech in which he recalled how, when recovering from tennis elbow and shoulder surgery in 2004-05, he realised during practice in England that international athletes sometimes forget why they started playing sport in the first place.

It is a love for the game. I had to wake up the kid in me and bring him alive," he said.

Following a warm welcome from Athletics Federation of India Senior Vice-President Anju Bobby George, AFI President Adille Sumariwalla stated that the 26 athletes had earned the privilege of representing their country on the world stage, but they also had the responsibility to give their best performances and make India proud.

Adille Sumariwalla, the President of the AFI, also expects that the athletics squad will capture the coveted Olympic medal this time.

Narinder Dhruv Batra, the President of the Indian Olympic Association, who attended the ceremony from Tokyo, said he believes Indian athletics is on the verge of earning that elusive Olympic medal. "I have seen the hard work by the Athletics Federation of India, and I know that athletics medal is not very far," he said.

“The BCCI proudly joins the Honourable Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi in extending our wholehearted support to the Team India athletes at Tokyo 2020. They have trained hard and are raring to go. Let us get together and Cheer 4 India," the Indian cricket board had tweeted.

MC Mary Kom, a six-time World champion, and Olympic bronze medalist, and India's hockey captain Manpreet Singh have been selected as the Indian contingent's flag bearers for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The athletics competitions will take place from July 30 to August 8, and Chopra is India's biggest and primary hope.

The Indian delegation at the Tokyo Olympics, which begins on Friday, will consist of 127 participants.