ROURKELA: ODIA hockey coach, Amulya Nanda Bihari, is on cloud nine after three of his female wards found berth in the Indian women’s hockey team for the upcoming Rio Olympics.
In fact, the hockey fraternity in the tribal-dominated Sundargarh district - considered the cradle of field hockey - is euphoric following inclusion of four Odia women hockey players for the Olympics.
Sunita Lakra, Namita Toppo and Lilima Minz, all of Rajgangpur block in Sundargarh district, are former inmates of the Rourkela-based State Government-run Panposh Sports Hostel (PSH) and were groomed by Bihari till they reached the international hockey arena. Only Deep Grace Ekka of Balishankara block in Sundargarh, was groomed at the SAI SAG Centre at Sundargarh by SAI coach Lucela Ekka.
Bihari, who is now in-charge of Sports Complex at Sundargarh town after serving the PSH from 1999 to 2016, is a happy man. He said all the four players are exceptionally talented and frontline players. He said Sunita, playing in forward position, is a gifted player with good dodging skill. Her ability to coordinate with other players and create gaps make her special. Bihari said Namita, playing at centre-half, frequently changes positions and simultaneously obstructs opponent players.
“Forward Lilima will give tough time to opponents,” Bihari said, adding that Limila has an innate quality of returning to support team defenders after chasing the ball to opposition post. Although he has not coached Deep Grace, he says the best thing about her is she is a dependable defender who rarely commits on-field mistakes with the ball. Bihari said he is hopeful that all these four players would leave indelible marks in the big event.
Meanwhile, trainee inmates of the PSH and SAI SAG Centre are in a celebration mood. A promising young player of PSH, Mariana Kujur, said all these four players are inspiration for them and hoped they would help India win medal. PSH in-charge Milton Bilung said the district has produced about 55 senior and junior international players, including at least 48 from the PSH. He said these four girls have brought laurels for Odisha, but rued that this time no male players from Odisha found place in the men’s hockey team.