BHUBANESWAR: Indian men’s hockey team captain Manpreet Singh on Tuesday said their bronze medal at Tokyo Olympics is a gift to the nation from Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who is an ardent supporter of the sport.
During a felicitation programme organised to honour both the men’s and the women’s outfit, which narrowly missed out on a bronze in Tokyo, Patnaik announced that Odisha will continue to sponsor the Indian hockey teams for another 10 years.
Each player was awarded Rs 10 lakh and the support staff was given Rs 5 lakh by the chief minister of the state that has been Indian hockey’s base for the past few years.
As a token of appreciation, each team member gifted a framed jersey autographed by the players to the chief minister.
“This bronze medal may have been won by us as players, but in truth, it equally belongs to India, a gift from the honourable chief minister Shri Naveen Patnaikji whose vision and constant encouragement helped us achieve our dream of winning an Olympic medal after 41 years,” Manpreet said.
“He is a pillar of support for each one of us, and this dream wouldn’t be possible to achieve without his guidance and continued support.”
Addressing the gathering, Patnaik said, “You made us all so proud with your spirited fight at Tokyo. These are deeply emotional moments for India to witness the revival of Indian hockey.
“For nearly four decades, hockey fans have been yearning to see India grab a medal at the Olympics.
“The way the entire country was glued to the screens to watch the hockey teams’ matches, it is quite evident there is something more to hockey than just sports.”
The last time the Indian team won a medal at the Olympics was in the 1980 Moscow Games, when the country claimed the top position.
“In the background of the COVID pandemic, it is remarkable that our teams have worked so hard in spite of all challenges and emerged victorious,” Patnaik said.
“In these crisis times, the teams have brought smiles on the faces of crores of Indians. We all should be thankful to our boys and girls.”
He added, “I believe, Odisha and hockey are destined to become synonymous. We will continue our partnership with Hockey India. Odisha will support the Indian hockey teams for 10 more years.
“This will herald a new era of Indian hockey and bring back the glory to the nation.”
The chief minister also gave away 13 awards.
In the men’s team, Harmanpreet Singh won an award for the maximum number of goals scored, PR Sreejesh was rewarded for the maximum number of goals saved, Nilakanta Sharma won the award for the maximum number of assists.
There were also awards for Rupinder Pal Singh (maximum number of defensive tackles), Harmanpreet Singh and Amit Rohidas (maximum interceptions in the midfield).
In the women’s team, Gurjit Kaur and Vandana Katariya won the award with maximum number of goals scored, while Savita Punia was rewarded for her work at the post.
Rani Rampal and Navneet Kaur jointly won the award for the maximum number of assists, while Deep Grace Ekka won it for maximum number of defensive tackles.
P Sushila Chanu was recognised for maximum interceptions in the midfield.
All players were awarded Rs 5 lakh each.
Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Narinder Batra was also felicitated by the chief minister for playing a role in hockey’s revival during his tenure as the chief of Hockey India.
Batra said, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the honourable chief minister Shri Naveen Patnaik Ji and the people of Odisha for showing their love and affection for the sport of hockey and helping our teams achieve the Olympic dream for India.
“With your continued support, Indian hockey will look to build on the achievements from the Tokyo Olympics, and continue this steady rise to take Indian hockey back to the elite level where it belongs.”
He also felicitated the chief minister and other dignitaries present for their unconditional support to the sport and the national teams.
Hockey India president Gyanendro Ningombam said, “This is indeed a jubilant time for Indian hockey with both our men and women’s hockey teams achieving historic results at the Tokyo Olympics.
“In 2009, when Hockey India was formed, the primary aim of the federation was to bring back the glory days for hockey in the country.
“It could not have been attained but for the unconditional support of Odisha state government under the leadership of the honourable chief minister Shri Naveen Patnaik ji who is himself a passionate lover of the sport.”
Captain of the national women’s hockey team, Rani, said, “Our team is always made to feel so welcome when we come here that Odisha feels very much like the home of Indian hockey now.”
Earlier in the day, the teams arrived to a rousing welcome at the airport here.