PR Sreejesh, the goalkeeper who played a crucial role in helping India’s men claim a first Olympic medal in over four decades when they won bronze at last year’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, has been named as The World Games Athlete of the Year for 2021.
PR Sreejesh belongs to a rare brand of Indian goalkeepers who come from Kerala, a state that is known more for its athletes and soccer players than field hockey.
In a global fan vote conducted on TheWorldGames.org, PR Sreejesh finished well clear at the top of the 24-strong nomination list, with 127,647 votes tally that were almost twice as many as the second placed athlete, Spain’s Sport Climbing ace Albert Ginés López, who garnered 67,428 votes.
Sreejesh becomes the second hockey player to win the award, following the footsteps of compatriot and India women’s captain Rani, who took the 2019 prize.
PR Sreejesh, the Indian goalkeeper, who was also voted as FIH Goalkeeper of the Year for 2021, 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, this award goes to them, and I think they deserve this award more than me. 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.”
“Also, I am a person who doesn’t believe in individual awards, especially when you are part of a team”, continued Sreejesh, a veteran of 244 senior international matches. “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 Sports Authority of India (SAI), who are providing you with all the world-class facilities to train, there’s Odisha Government who’s unwavering support helps the sport grow and flourish and there’s India Olympic Association (IOA) as well, who re taking care of you really well. So, it’s a collective effort of a nation to get this kind of recognition.”
FIH Chief Executive Officer Thierry Weil said: “On behalf of the global hockey community, I’d like to wholeheartedly congratulate PR Sreejesh for this magnificent achievement. This is a great recognition for him, for his team and for hockey as a whole. We also extend our sincerest thanks to all fans who voted for him. Athletes are the best ambassadors of our sport and India’s goalkeeper certainly is a leader in this field too. We look forward to seeing him in action again in just a few days for the third edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League!”
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The World Games are staged over a period of 11 days, with more than 30 sports in the programme. Indoor Hockey featured as an invitational sport at The World Games in 2005, which took place in Duisburg, Germany. Hockey will be a part of sports demonstrations during the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, USA from July 7 to 17.