Stalwart defender and penalty corner specialist Deep Grace Ekka from Odisha called time on her illustrious international hockey career on Saturday.
Hockey India congratulated the two-time Olympian for her outstanding contribution to the growth of the Indian women’s hockey team. Ekka announced her retirement through a social media post.
“It is with immense gratitude and humility that I officially announce my retirement from International Hockey today. The journey from 2011 to 2023 has been the highlight of my life, and I am deeply honoured to have represented India at the pinnacle of the sport. I extend my sincere thanks to Hockey India, Hockey Association of Odisha, and the Odisha Government for the invaluable opportunities they provided me. I would also like to thank the Government of India and Sports Authority of India for their unwavering support for the sport,” wrote Ekka on Instagram.
“To my teammates, coaches, mentors, and the entire support staff – your presence has been nothing short of a privilege. I am grateful for your instrumental role in transforming my aspirations into reality. I extend my best wishes to my former teammates and the Indian Hockey Team for all your future endeavours. A heartfelt acknowledgment goes to the passionate hockey fans who stood by me during the highs and lows. Your unwavering support has been my constant motivation. And lastly cannot overlook the unwavering support of my family and friends; they have been my pillars of strength throughout my career,” she added.
Ekka’s sojourn in international hockey began as early as 2011 when she was only 17 years old. She made her international debut in the Four Nation Tournament in Argentina. She then went on to play in the U18 Girls Asia Cup in Bangkok, Thailand and her strong performance led her to become a regular feature in the National Camp.
From Lulkidihi village in Sundargh district Ekka etched her name in the history books when the Indian Junior squad she was part of won the historic bronze medal at the 2013 Women’s Junior Hockey World Cup in Germany. She doubled up for both junior and senior squads that year, winning a bronze with the senior side at the Women’s Asia Cup in 2013 and a silver at the Asian Champions Trophy in 2013.
She was also instrumental in the team qualifying for the Rio Olympic Games for the first time and she was a vital cog in the team’s defence line at the Tokyo Olympics where they finished fourth, winning over a billion hearts the world over for their brave performance in only their third appearance (1980, 2016 and 2021) at the Summer Games.
From the SAI-SAG Centre in Odisha, the 29-year-old Ekka has been a huge inspiration for several young players from her state.
As the curtains went down on her incredible career in international hockey, Hockey India President Padma Shri Dr Dilip Tirkey said, “For over a decade, Deep Grace Ekka has been a household name in women’s hockey. Her success in hockey has been a huge inspiration for youngsters not only in Odisha but across the country. She has shown great sportsmanship throughout her career and has immensely contributed to the team’s growth in the past decade. On behalf of Hockey India, I wish her the very best for the future and congratulate her on her illustrious career.”