Thiruvananthapuram: Rio Olympics medal winners P V Sindhu and Sakshi Malik were accorded a rousing welcome in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday in the presence of hundreds of girl students at a state-run school.
Their coaches Pullela Gopichand and Mandeep Singh were also felicitated at the function, organised jointly by the state Sports Council and Sports Directorate at the Cotton Hill Higher Secondary School for Girls, considered to be one of the largest girl schools in Asia.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was not present as, according to CMO sources, he had some personal "inconvenience" that forced him to skip the function.
A purse of Rs 50 lakh and a memento, sponsored by a private business group, were presented to Olympic silver medallist, badminton ace Sindhu while a cash prize of Rs 25 lakh was given to wrestler Sakshi Malik who won the bronze.
The two Olympic medal winners were coming to the state for the first time after their historic achievement.
Gopichand and Mandeep were given cash prizes of Rs 10 lakh and Rs five lakh respectively.
During a brief address to the gathering, amid applause and cheers of hundreds of girl students, Sindhu and Malik thanked the organisers and said it was an inspiration for them to do better.
Sindhu said Kerala has very good sports talent and the state government has been very much supportive to the sports sector.
Referring to the achievements of Sindhu and Malik at Rio, Gopichand said it was a real encouragement to every youngster, especially girls in the country.
"Sports is not just about winning medals. It's only a part of it. The real value of sports is developing the character of human beings and building up a healthy nation," he said.
About criticism from certain quarters on why there should be more celebrations and felicitations for winning a medal, Gopichand said, "Felicitation and celebrations give them inspiration," adding, he drew inspiration after witnessing Olympic bronze medallist, wrestler Karnam Malleswari, being felicitated.
Sports Council president T P Dasan and former sports minister M Vijayakumar were among those present.