Sports

Manipur hockey player sees growth potential of sport in state

New Delhi, Sept 16 (UNI): Indian men’s hockey team midfielder Nilakanta Sharma hopes his performance in Tokyo Olympics will inspire a generation of youngsters from his home state Manipur to take up the sport professionally.

At the recently held 2020 Tokyo Olympics where India won the historic bronze, Nilakanta was impressive in the midfield as he executed the team’s plans well and showed why he is a team player.

India ended a 41-year-old Olympic medal drought in Tokyo. Notably, India’s last medal, a gold, came in the 1980 Moscow Games.

“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,” the 26-year-old said in a Hockey India release.

Sharma has over the years shown significant performances which has helped him cement his place in the team. However, 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,” he said.

“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. 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,” he added.

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

“We will now 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 said.

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