Bengaluru, August 29: Cricket great Sachin Tendulkar and Olympic champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra led glowing tributes as the nation paid homage to hockey great Major Dhyan Chand on his birth anniversary which is celebrated as India's National Sports Day.
The National Sports Day is celebrated on August 29 every year to mark the birth anniversary of the legendary hockey player.
Tendulkar cited the example of Rupa Rani Tirkey, Pinki, Nayanmoni Saikia and Lovely Choubey, who won a historic gold in the women's four lawn bowl event at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, to put forward his message.
"The story of Rupa, Lovely, Nayanmoni and Pinki is a story of hope. They not only ret-introduced a lesser-known sport to us, but also earned due recognition for themselves. Rupa Rani Tirkey was once a kabaddi player, Nayanmoni Saikia a weightlifter, Pinki Singh a cricketer, while Lovely Choubey was a sprinter.
"Despite their humble beginnings, they came together for a sport not known to many. And now with such a historic gold to their names, they have stood tall for the old adage - 'Age is just a number'," Tendulkar wrote in a statement.
"In a country of 1.3 billion, what stops us from breaking the hurdles and triumph in sports? On this National Sports Day, let us then continue with our collective endeavour to make India a 'sports playing nation' from a 'sports loving nation'," he added.
Chopra honoured the hockey genius on his micro-blogging site. "To honour the legend Major Dhyan Chand, National Sports Day falls on August 29th, and I look forward to seeing India come out and play sport. Not just on that day, but through the year!"
Star shuttler Lakshya Sen wrote: My sport brings out the best in me. Happy National Sports Day."
Former India cricketers Yuvraj Singh and Mithali Raj and Dinesh Karthik also took to social media to wish the countrymen on the occasion.
"Saluting the spirit of sportsmanship today and everyday! Proud to be a citizen of this nation of great champions! #NationalSportsDay," Yuvraj wrote.
Karthik added: "As a sportsperson myself who has dedicated his life to a sport he loves, I can say how much a sport can mean to someone. To all such sportspersons and people who love to play or watch their respective sports, I wish a happy #NationalSportsDay."
Mithali tweeted: "The #NationalSportsDay serves as a reminder of the legacy of late Major Dhyan Chand who made the world take a notice of India's might in the field of hockey. Today, we are making formidable progress in many different sports & we shall continue to excel. Happy National Sports Day!"
Olympic and Commonwealth Games medallist woman wrestler Sakshi Malik also wished the nation on the occasion. "HAPPY NATIONAL SPORTS DAY Physical toughness and mental health are both improved by participating in sports. National Sports Day wishes to all of you."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also took to Twitter to pay tributes to India's greatest sporting hero.
"Greetings on National Sports Day and tributes to Major Dhyan Chand Ji on his birth anniversary. The recent years have been great for sports. May this trend continue. May sports keep gaining popularity across India".
(With inputs from Agencies)