Vijayawada, Aug 23: Olympic medalist PV Sindhu was accorded a civic reception here on Tuesday by the Andhra Pradesh government even as she grew nostalgic about the first steps she took as a badminton player in the city.
Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu felicitated Sindhu and her coach Pullela Gopichand. He announced a 15-acre site for Gopichand in the proposed Sports City in the state's capital Amaravati for setting up a badminton academy.
As the Telangana government sought to "own" the Olympics silver medalist as "daughter of our soil", Chandrababu and his government took pains to proclaim that the champion indeed belonged to Andhra Pradesh.
"Her father is from Eluru and mother from Vijayawada. Both were volleyball players and the credit goes to them for encouraging and nurturing Sindhu to become what she is today," Chandrababu said, repeatedly referring to her as "mana ammai" (our daughter).
On her part, while thanking the AP government for the honour, Sindhu recalled her visits to the city as a child.
"I used to come to Vijayawada to my grandfather's house and play shuttle at the indoor stadium here," she said.
"Thanks to your blessings and prayers, I have come this far. My parents and coach encouraged me very well. As a kid I used to watch Gopi sir play and got inspired," she added.
Chandrababu played badminton with Sindhu on the dais at the start of the event. Calling Sindhu "a diamond" who has rewritten the history of Indian sports, Chandrababu promised to nurture her further to make her the pride of India.
He also expressed his desire to host the Olympics in Amaravati in the future.
"Olympic games should come to India and that will inspire our sportspersons. We are inferior to none. We have a lot of talent better than China or Russia. The AP government would build necessary infrastructure in Amaravati for hosting the Olympics. It is not difficult," he said.
"You (Gopichand) set up a world class academy in Amaravati. We will get funds from donors, if not, the government will release necessary grants," the Chief Minister said.
The Andhra University also announced to award a honorary doctorate on the young Olympian's coach.
The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister also announced a reward of Rs 25 lakh to shuttler Kidambi Srikanth of Guntur, who made an early exit from the Rio Olympics.
Srikanth has also been offered a Group-2 job in the state government.
Another Olympian from the state Rajini will also get Rs 25 lakh and a Group-2 job in the government.
The Chief Minister also felicitated chess grandmaster Koneru Humpy and Gopichand's wife and former badminton player Srilakshmi on the occasion.
Earlier, Sindhu and Gopichand were flown down to Vijayawada in a chartered aircraft from Hyderabad.
A host of Andhra ministers, MPs and legislators received them at the airport at Gannavaram and brought them to the city in a huge procession.
Andhra Pradesh has announced a slew of rewards, including a cash award of Rs 3 crore and 1,000 sq yds of house site in the state's new capital Amaravati for the shuttler.
The Telangana government had earlier announced Rs 5 crore cash reward, a 1,000 square yard housing site near the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy in Gachibowli and suitable government job to the 21-year-old, if she is willing, and a cash prize of Rs one crore for Gopichand.
A two-time bronze medalist at World Championship, Sindhu lost in the finals of Rio Olympics to Spain's Carolina Marin to settle for a silver, becoming the first Indian shuttler to achieve such a feat.