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Announcement: Player of the Year 2012 (1/1/2013)
--K. Arumugam
Birendra Lakra is www.stick2hockey.com Player of the Year 2012

Midfielder Birendra Lakra has been declared www.stick2hockey.com’s Player of the Year 2012 while Manpreet Singh earns the same honour in the 'Rising Star' category.

Chenglensana Singh, who struck the winning goal against Pakistan in the league match of the recent Asian Champions Trophy, has been declared ‘Young Player of the Year 2012’.

Successful conduct of World Series Hockey encountered stiff competition from Hockey India League Auction while deciding the ‘Event of the Year 2012’.

Declaring the results, K. Arumugam, editor of www.stick2hockey.com said: "We published Hockey Year Books till 2010 and used to declare a series of Best Players for each category under Hockey Year Book banner. Now, we changed this to stick2hockey.com, which has become wider platform".

undefined Birendra Lakra and Sardar Singh were serious contenders for the Player of the Year, but the former got it on account of consistency, though he lacked a bit of class in Sardar.

"Birendra Lakra is a silent contributor to the team's cause. I saw him doing a great job in the Singapore-Malaysia Junior World Cup in 2009, ever since impressed with his game, which has gone from strength to strength since then. When he won the Man of the Match award in Azlan Shah Cup for his game against Pakistan, his rise has been confirmed beyond doubt, now he is a vital cog in the national team, and also in the Ranchi Rhinos", the editor adds.

Punjab's Manpreet Singh on the other hand rolled easily to the roll of honour, though Kothajit Singh came a distant challenger.

"I was fortunate to see the youngster making senior debut in the 2011 Australia tour, and he packed lot of energy and enthusiasm in his game, and withing short span of time he won the hearts of national coach Michael Nobbs, which is expected," Arumugam adds.

In a year where almost 10 youngsters have made international debut, it is not easy to select one of them for the Young Player award, but Chengalensana Singh made it to the list due to strong rating given by s2h Sub-editor Shahshank Gupta in his Asian Champions Trophy reports.

www.stick2hockey.com is the only media organization that had its presence in all hockey Internationals held in India, besides sending its writers for Olympics, Azlan Shah Cup and Asian Champions Trophy plus a Junior Asia Cup in Malaysia. The site has taken views of all those writers before pinning down on the above three for the annual Roll of Honour.

Our Odisha Reporter Satish Sharma traces early career of Birendra Lakra.

In the Delhi Olympic hockey qualifier, an unassuming young boy of Sundargarh district in Odisha caught the attention of everyone with his splendid performance. His incredible goal off reverse hit in the final against France amazed hockey fans all over the country. The stunned French defence could not stand further, suffered a humiliating 8-1 defeat. This victory not only earned ticket for India to London Olympics but it made Birendra Lakra a ‘Hero’, particularly in Odisha.

With his performance Birendra Lakra, has emerged as Sundargarh’s latest hockey star who later became its fifth hockey Olympian.

Hailing from a small hamlet – Lachhra in Gurundia Block of Sundargarh Dt – Lakra has become an important member of Indian national team, even earning high sum for playing for Ranchi Rhinos as a part of Hockey India League.

Sixth and last sibling of Ignance Lakra, Birendra picked up hockey stick at a tender age with other village children. His talent was noticed when he moved to Rourklea where his late father was working (Rourkela Steel Plant). Birendra joined a day scholar scheme, launched by RSP to promote hockey in 2003 and a year later the SAIL Hockey Academy (Rourkela) took him on its roll. He trained till 2010.

Initially Peter Tirkey and Herman Lakra and later his present coach and mentor Rajukant Saini honed his hockey skills. Blessed with resilience and endurance he became regular member of SAIL Academy team in the first year itself. His first big break came in 2004 when he played in U-21 National hockey championship at Jabalpur where SAIL finished as runners up losing to Services 3-2. Another highlight of his was in the U-18 National Hockey 2007 where he scored a hat trick to lift the trophy for SAIL. Getting noticed in the tournament Lakra made his debut for the national junior side in the same year to play in Singapore. Later he represented India in Youth Olympics Sydney- 2009, Junior World Cup- Singapore -2009.

He won senior spurs at the SAF hockey at DHAKA in 2010 and then he toured Europe with senior Indian team. Recently he represented India in Champions Challenge tournament held in South Africa from 26th November to 4th December-2011 and again in Test matches against South Africa held in Delhi (January-2012) before playing Olympic qualifiers.

His performance in Olympic qualifier has taken him to realize his childhood dream playing in the Olympics.

After the Olympic qualifier, the excited younger said:” I always dreamt of playing in Olympics, now I have come nearer to realize the dream. I wish not only to participate but to win medal in Olympics. I know Olympic game will be different proposition so I am mentally preparing for the challenge and making necessary adjustments and approach in the game with the help of my coaches and senior players. All the matched will be tough and it will test player ability. I am looking forward for that glorious day”.

He went on to play in the London Olympics and it is history now.

A big fan of Dilip Tirkey whom he accepts as his role model, he says he will also, like Dilip Tirkey, try to play for the country as long as possible.

His coach at SHA, Raju Saini talks proudly of him. Talking about his pupil he says “Ever since joining SHA, Birendra has been a very hard worker. A very talented and getting break at right time also helped him work with more intensity. His self belief and confidence have made him a mature player. He is capable of playing in forward line also which makes him an asset to any team. I am proud of him. In this moment of glory he misses his father who was very supportive to his hockey career. “ Had he been alive today he would have been the most happiest person.’ Birendra said with a tinge of sadness. Birendra Lakra’s rise to higher pedestal will definitely give more impetus to the younger players and it must prompt others to concentrate on hockey than any other game.

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