Olympic bronze medalist and hockey star from Odisha, Birendra Lakra has announced his retirement from the Indian Men’s Hockey Team.
Hockey India (HI) has announced Lakra’s retirement plan on Twitter today. “Olympic Bronze Medalist A solid defender and one of the most influential Indian Men’s Hockey Team figures, the Odisha star has announced his retirement from the Indian national team. Happy Retirement, Birendra Lakra. #IndiaKaGame (sic),” the HI tweeted.
Another hockey star Rupinderpal Singh too retired from the team. Rupinder made his international debut in 2010 and scored four goals in the Olympics and was the second-highest goal-scorer in the team. Overall, he has scored 119 goals in 223 senior international matches.
Odisha Sports and Youth Services Department has wished both the heroes. “𝗛𝗮𝗽𝗽𝘆 𝗥𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁, 𝗕𝗶𝗿𝘂! #Odisha and #KalingaStadium will forever miss you and cherish your memories!,” the Sports Department said in a tweet for Lakra.
In another tweet for Singh, the Department said, “Happy Retirement 𝗟𝗘𝗚𝗘𝗡𝗗! #Kalinga will miss you.”
As a member of the Indian Hockey team, Lakra has played 201 matches. He contributed significantly to the Indian Men’s Hockey team during the Tokyo Olympics and helped India win a bronze medal.
Lakra was the joint vice-captain of the team at the Tokyo Olympics and a key defender. Lakra has represented India in 201 matches, scoring 10 goals.
A product of SAIL Hockey Academy Rourkela, Lakra has represented India at the 2009 Youth Olympic Festival held in Sydney, the 2009 Junior World Cup, the 2010 SAAF Games in Dhaka, and the 2011 Champions Challenge tournament in South Africa.
Having progressed through the ranks, Lakra made his debut for the senior national team in the 2010 South Asian Games and has been part of India’s various memorable moments such as the 2014 Asian Games glory, bronze medal feat in the World League Final 2015 in Raipur, silver medal-winning campaign at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar Odisha 2019.
In his long-serving career, the two-time Olympian has featured in almost all the major tournaments, including the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup in 2014 and 2018 respectively. However, he missed out on the Rio Olympics 2016 due to a knee injury and made a strong comeback to the Indian set-up by playing a pivotal role in the team’s Gold Medal-winning feat at the 2016 Asian Champions Trophy.
Lakra, who stood tall in India’s defence line at the quadrennial Games, also achieved the milestone of completing 200 Senior International Caps for the National team.
Hockey India has congratulated both Rupinderpal Singh and Birendra Lakra for their contributions to the Indian team and wished them luck for future endeavours.