Veteran Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh bagged the World Games Athlete of the Year Award on Monday (January 31). The 33-year-old accumulated a mammoth 1,27,647 votes to become the second Indian athlete after Indian Women's Hockey stalwart Rani Rampal to win the award.
Rani became the first athlete from India to win World Games Athlete of the Year by 1,99,477 votes in 2019.
A total of 24 athletes from across 17 countries were nominated for the award. The International Hockey Federation (FIH) recommended Sreejesh's name for his outstanding performance at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
PR Sreejesh thanks fans for tremendous support
PR Sreejesh has returned to the squad after a long break. He will be seen doing what he does best during the upcoming the FIH Pro League. The 33-year-old thanked all his fans and well-wishers who voted for him. He said:
"I'm very honoured to win this award. First of all, a big thank you to FIH for nominating me for this award, and secondly thanks to all the Indian hockey lovers around the world, who voted for me. By getting nominated, I did my part but the rest was done by the fans and hockey lovers. So, definitely, this award goes to them."
"It's a big moment for Indian hockey as well because everyone in the hockey community, all the hockey federations around the world voted for me, so it's great to see that support from the hockey family."
Sreejesh termed it a collective effort from all departments. He went on to say that hockey is a team sport and further mentioned the SAI, IOA, Odisha government, fellow teammates and fans who have extended their unwavering support. The three-time Olympian explained:
"I am a person who doesn't believe in individual awards, especially when you are part of a team. It's not only the team of 33 players but you have a lot of people involved behind as well. There's coaching staff, there's support staff, there's a great association like Hockey India who is supporting you a lot. There's the Sports Authority of India (SAI), who are providing you with all the world-class facilities to train."
"There's the Odisha Government who’s unwavering support helps the sport grow and flourish and there's India Olympic Association (IOA) as well, who are taking care of you really well. So, it's a collective effort of a nation to get this kind of recognition."