Tokyo Olympics silver medallist weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu shows her medal to cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar
Tokyo Olympics silver medallist weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu shows her medal to cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar Image Credit: PTI

Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar has called on India to wholeheartedly support the athletes taking part in the Tokyo Paralympics and termed them “real-life heroes”.

“It is time for the Paralympics and I would like to appeal to all Indians to get behind our contingent of 54 athletes in Tokyo,” Tendulkar said ahead of the Gamers, which begin on Tuesday.

According to Tendulkar, the journey of para athletes is an “eye-opener” to common people that what one can do with passion and determination.

“I have always believed that these women and men are not athletes with special abilities,” he said. “Rather, they are women and men of extraordinary ability who are all real life heroes for each one of us.

“Their journeys are an eye-opener to what women and men can do with passion, commitment and determination and serve as inspiration for every one of us.”

Tendulkar said it was important to celebrate every athlete at the Paralympics irrespective of the results.

“I have always believed that if we can celebrate our Paralympic athletes in the very same manner that we celebrate our Olympic heroes and our cricketers, we can become a better society,” he said. “It is not simply about the medal winners. Not every athlete among the 54 participating in the Paralympics will win a medal. However, it is important we celebrate them all. We need to celebrate the process and not simply the outcome. That’s when real change will happen in our sport.”

Tendulkar also hoped that the country wins more medals this time around.

“I have been reading we might win more than 10 medals,” he said. “I hope we win more. In Rio, we won four medals. If that goes up to 10 it is a significant upswing that all of us should celebrate.

“Having said that I will watch each athlete with the same interest whether they make it to the podium or not. Each of them are great role models and to see them perform for India and do it all for the tricolour is in itself a great sense of satisfaction for the country.”

Tendulkar was also delighted to see the support the government and businesses have extended to para athletes.

“I have been delighted to see India embrace the Paralympics this year, the very welcome initiatives of the government and corporates working in partnership and on their own in different aspects of extending support to our sports persons are all steps in the right direction.”