Deep Grace Ekka wins Sportstar Aces 2020 Sportswoman of the Year in team sports

India hockey defender Deep Grace Ekka won the Sportswoman of the Year in team sports, beating her teammate Lalremsiami and footballer Ngangom Bala Devi to the prize.

Deep Grace Ekka is a natural leader and has excellent tactical understanding of the game.

Deep Grace Ekka could not have become any other sportsperson. The strong and stocky defender of the Indian women’s hockey team belongs to a district — Sundergarh — in a state — Odisha — that knows of little else other than play hockey. Most of those who go on to play for the country from Sundergarh — and there are innumerable — become defenders.

While some credit it to the sheer bloody-mindedness to be the best coupled with a lack of flamboyance, it has equally to do with the idols they grow up wanting to emulate. And none gets bigger in Odisha than Dilip Tirkey, admired worldwide as a legend of Indian hockey and Odisha sports, with over 400 international caps.

“This is a huge achievement for me and an honour. Sportstar has been one of the very few publications that not only continues to give enough importance and coverage to all sports but also perhaps the only one that has managed to continue doing so for so many years. Our seniors used to tell us about how prestigious it was to get something published about you in Sportstar, so to get an award here is absolutely amazing,” Ekka, who was named Sportswoman of the Year in team sports at the second Sportstar Aces awards, said.

At 25, Ekka is already a veteran of more than 200 caps and part of a new generation of quietly confident Indian women hockey stars who are neither desperate for the spotlight nor shy away from it. Often called the biggest prankster in the dressing room and bossing over her teammates off the field, Ekka remains a complete team player on it. “Even if I save a 1000 goals, the team has to score one at the other end for a win. And once you have that one goal, then everyone has to defend like crazy to ensure the opposition doesn’t score. One player can do nothing in a team game and if I have been appreciated, because the team has performed well, it is because of every one of the 16 girls in the dressing room in any tournament,” she declared.

She also doesn’t look too far back till Tirkey for an icon — she has one among her contemporaries on the men’s side, Birendra Lakra. But the way forward, she knows, won’t be easy. Having qualified for the 2020 Olympics, she insisted that the entire team was only looking at improving the 12th place finish four years back. “We were better than that and we know it. We only need to prove it to the world now and we will,” she signed off.

Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, chess ace Vishwanathan Anand, The Hindu Publishing Group chairman N. Ram, former India hockey captain M. M. Somaya, Olympian shooter Anjali Bhagwat and Olympian shuttler Aparna Popat selected the deserving winners in categories involving young athletes, teams, coaches and parathletes.

The awards look to create a medium of knowledge and vision exchange as it brings all stakeholders of Indian sports under one roof.

You can watch the Sportstar Aces Awards telecast on Sony Ten 1 SD & HD on Sunday 26 January at 8 PM (IST).

1st Repeat : Monday 27 January at 6 PM, 2nd Repeat : Tuesday 28th January  at 7 PM

Support Sportstar


Dear Reader,

Support our journalism — where text and pictures intermingle so seamlessly — and help us scale up your experience as the world changes around us. Your contribution is vital to our brand of uninfluenced, boots-on-the-ground reportage that’s worth your while. Clickbait sensationalism is not for us, but editorial independence is — we owe it to you.