After showing their outstanding performances in the Tokyo Olympics, Odisha players who were members of the men's and women's national hockey teams on Tuesday returned home to a rousing reception.
Hockey players from Odisha -- Deep Grace Ekka and Namita Toppo (both women’s team), Birendra Lakra and Amit Rohidas (men’s team) -- were received at the Biju Patnaik International Airport by Sports & Youth Services Minister Tusharkanti Behera and officials, including Sports Secretary R Vineel Krishna and Odisha Hockey Promotion Council chairman Dilip Tirkey.
The state has been abuzz with excitement ever since their names were announced in the men's and women's teams.
Once the teams scripted history, qualifying for the semifinals, it became a moment of glory for Odisha too as the state has partnered with Hockey India to sponsor the men's and women's national teams for a period of five years starting 2018.
"A new era in hockey has started and Odisha is proud that players from the state are forever making their mark in the international platform and this time they have brought glory not only for their state but for the entire nation," said Behera.
"We are extremely proud for each one of them. Our Olympians have inspired a generation of young hockey players and hockey will surely scale greater heights from here on."
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik will be felicitating the four hockey players for their Olympic achievements, sources said.
Welcoming the players, Tirkey, said, "It is after 41 years that India has won a medal in hockey. The Indian women’s team has also performed exceedingly well against some of the top teams in the world."
"It is a matter of great pride for Odisha Hockey that four of our own played a significant role in making this miracle happen for India.”