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Suryakant Jena

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extolled the contribution of star Hockey defender from Odisha, Birendra Lakra who recently bid farewell to the sport after an illustrious career.

In a touching letter to the ace player which was shared by the PIB Odisha on its Twitter page, the Prime Minister expressed his gratitude to Lakra for his indelible contributions to Indian hockey.

You (Lakra) began playing hockey at a time when no Indian could imagine our nation would win an Olympics medal in the near future. You also continued the glorious tradition of Odisha of producing outstanding hockey players, particularly defenders, the PM said in the letter.

PM Modi said that Hockey was not considered to be the most glamorous of sports. Yet, things changed so soon and the credit for such a positive transformation goes to players like Lakra, who kept the faith and worked hard for the regeneration of Indian hockey.

One of the things the coming generation of athletes can learn from you is a spirit of resilience. It is remarkable how you have always remained humble despite scaling soaring heights of success, Modi wrote in the note.

Recalling his meeting with the defender and the rest of the country's Tokyo 2020 contingent, the Prime Minister urged Lakra to strengthen India's Amrit Mahotsav by visiting various schools or colleges by August 2023.

I had requested you all to do so in order to spread awareness on eliminating malnutrition and to encourage sports. I sincerely hope you would consider doing this in the coming months and motivate others to do the same, said the Prime Minister.

I can sense the pain when you wrote in your post that the thought of not sharing the dressing room with your teammates is unimaginable but I am confident you will remain connected to this beautiful game and encourage the coming crop of players, the letter stated with the conclusive remark.

Lakra with his stellar defence helped India clinch historic Bronze in the Tokyo Olympics, country's first medal in hockey after over 4 decades. He was a vital cog of the team's backline for over a decade during which he won a Silver Medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

He recently hung up his boots after playing over 200 international matches for India.

The Olympian meanwhile on Saturday said he was overwhelmed by the appreciation of the Prime Minister.

"We athletes contribute our life to the sport and when it is acknowledged by Hon'ble PM of the country, it feels like we have really done our bit for nation-building. Heartfelt thanks to Hon'ble Narendra Modi ji for his warm gesture. The time spent with you at the interaction after Tokyo 2020 will always remain memorable," Lakra wrote in a note on the social media platform Facebook.

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