Bajrang Punia echoes Neeraj Chopra’s sentiments, says, ‘respect athletes whether from Pakistan or elsewhere’

Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia echoed the same sentiments as Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Neeraj Chopra, saying sport should not be used as a medium to discriminate. Punia’s statement comes after javelin thrower Chopra said he was pained by the controversy surrounding his comments on Pakistani Arshad Nadeem using his javelin during the Tokyo Games and called the entire furore “propaganda aimed at pushing a dirty agenda.”

“Whether the athlete is from Pakistan or any other country, he represents his nation. He is a sportsperson first. So it’s not like we’ll say something against that person because he is from Pakistan. There should be respect for athletes,” wrestler Bajrang, who won the bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics, told The Indian Express.

“I haven’t seen Neeraj’s video, but sport teaches us how to remain united, instead of discriminating. When I meet wrestlers from Russia, USA, it’s always very cordial, it doesn’t feel like we are rivals; we are all like brothers. The competitive spirit is on the mat only,” Bajrang added.

Earlier, Neeraj Chopra tried to calm down the storm raised by his revelation in an interview that Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem had picked up his javelin ahead of the final in Tokyo Olympics. Social media was up in arms at this revelation, even blaming Nadeem for trying some underhand tactics to gain an edge over eventual champion Chopra.

The 23-year-old defended Arshad Nadeem’s action and claimed that it was well within the rules.

“A huge deal has been made about Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem picking up my javelin before the men’s final at Tokyo Olympics. We can keep out personal javelin in the rack and any of the other athletes can use it as well – that’s the rule. There is nothing wrong in that because he was preparing for his throw and I was preparing for mine,” Neeraj Chopra said in a video posted on his social media account.

“I am upset that such a big deal has been made out of the incident while using my name. I request to everyone, please don’t do that. Sports sabhi ko milke chalna sikhata hai. Hum sab javelin thrower aapas mein pyar se rehte hain, koi bhi aisi baat na karein jisse humko thes pohonche,” the Olympics gold medallist added.

“I was searching for my javelin at the start of the final in Olympics. I was not able to find it. Suddenly, I saw Arshad Nadem was moving around with my javelin. Then I told him, ‘Bhai give this javelin to me, it is my javelin! I have to throw with it’. He gave it back to me. That’s why you must have seen I took my first throw hurriedly,” Neeraj said in an interview to TOI.

Soon after his statement Arshad Nadeem started trending on Twitter but this time for all the wrong reasons. And now a video of the incident has gone viral on social media.

While Neeraj clinched India’s gold with his effort at Tokyo Olympics, his Pakistani opponent Arshad Nadeem finished fifth. The Indian’s biggest threat and world leader Johannes Vetter failed to make any impact. 

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Sagar Biswas

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