Seasoned weightlifter Popy Hazarika, who represented India at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, acknowledged the importance of the platform that the Khelo India University Games 2023 will provide to the thousands of athletes participating from across 200 universities in the marquee event, starting February 19 here.
Popy, a multiple medallist at the National Games, and the Commonwealth championships, believes the prestigious event, hosted in Assam for the first time, will boost the sporting culture in the state.
Welcoming the athletes to experience the warmth and hospitality in the Gateway of the Northeast, Popy said, “Khelo India University Games provides a perfect platform for every young athlete to establish themselves in the big league. Assam is known for its warmth and hospitality, and I’m sure the state government will leave no stones unturned to make it a grand success.”
Raised by a widowed mother, who worked as a farm hand and cook to support her four daughters after losing her husband, Popy had overcome multiple challenges after losing her father, a driver by profession.
A product of the SAI centre in Golaghat, Popy, who won the 59kg gold in the Khelo India National Weightlifting Championships in 2022, said that the exposure athletes get by taking part at events like the KIUG is massive.
“As an athlete, coming from a remote village in Assam, I have experienced how such tournaments help in boosting one’s confidence. I wholeheartedly wish all the participants the very best for the games. The exposure that the events like Khelo India University Games provide to young athletes is massive, and helps shape in one’s individuality,” she said.
The 25-year-old from Namti Salkathoni village in Sivasagar district, also reflected on the significance of the KIUG taking place in the state, “It’s a testament to our state’s rising stature in the field of sports.”
“Our state has successfully hosted multi-discipline events in the past, and this time, it will be bigger and better. The sports infrastructure in the state has improved massively, especially after the National Games in 2007, and then the Khelo India Youth Games in 2020,” she added.
Popy also spoke highly of the state’s support for athletes, while citing the Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma-led Assam government’s decision to provide jobs to medallists of major national tournaments.
“The state government has been really supportive towards sportspersons and this has brought in a sporting culture across the state. It’s no more limited to the bigger cities, but there’s a sporting culture growing in the remote areas, thanks to the infrastructure and support from the government,” she said.
“Right before the National Games in Gujarat, the government for the first time announced flight travel for all athletes and support staff, participating at any major national event. The decision helped athletes save travel time, and focus on training. Also the medallists were given jobs, which is a massive boost,” she accounted.
Popy is hopeful that the KIUG 2023 will bring out a number of champions from the home state.
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