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Hope more youngsters from Manipur take up hockey, Nilakanta Sharma


Mumbai, Sep 16: In nearly four decades since Pangambam Nilakomol Singh became Manipur's first hockey Olympian, the state has seen four more male players representing Team India in the quadrennial showpiece.

Nilkomol played in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and was followed by Thoiba Singh in 1988, Kothajit Khadangbam (2012, 2016), Chinglensana Kangujam (2016), and Nilakanta Sharma in 2021, who was part of the Indian men's team that won a bronze medal in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games last month.

With the state now having an Olympic bronze medallist in hockey, the Indian team's midfielder Sharma hopes his medal will inspire youngsters from his state to take up hockey in big numbers.

Sharma has over the years shown significant performances which have helped him cement his place in the team.

He was part of India's successful campaign in the FIH Ju'ior Men's World Cup in 2016 and came into the senior setup in 2017. There has been no looking back for this youngster from Manipur.

"I believe there is a lot of scope for me to improve my own game from here on and build on this performance in Tokyo. It was absolutely an incredible feeling to win the Bronze Medal and I have received a lot of love from the people of Manipur all through my career," Sharma was quoted as saying by Hockey India on Thursday.

"Definitely there is a lot of potential for Manipur Hockey to grow further. A lot of good things are happening in the state and the emphasis is on creating good infrastructure. I hope my performance in Tokyo has inspired more youngsters from my state to take up hockey," stated the 26-year-old.

At the recently held Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games where India won the historic bronze, Nilakanta was impressive in the midfield as he exe'uted the team's plans and showed why he is a team player.

He believes there is still a lot more for him to improve ahead of an important calendar year in 2022.

"I have had some time to introspect about my own performance over these past few years with the senior team. I think I have been very fortunate to have played along with some of the best players in India and have been able to learn a lot from them. I always like to keep things simple and execute what is expected of me from the team. Each player is assigned a certain role by the coach and I just try to stick to it."

Having got a good break following the Olympics, Sharma is now eager to regroup with his teammates in SAI, Bengaluru when the national coaching camp begins in October.

"We will sit down as a team and analyse our performance in the Olympics. I personally like these team meetings because everyone contributes and gets to put across their views. We discuss what worked for us as a team and what didn't. Also, there is so much to learn from the leadership group which includes the senior players and I am looking forward to returning to Camp," he concluded.

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