Injured India defender Sunita Lakra retires from international hockey

The 28-year-old said a nagging knee injury had come in the way of her dream to be a part of the Tokyo Olympics.

Sunita Lakra (left) played 139 matches for India. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Indian women’s hockey team defender Sunita Lakra on Thursday announced her international retirement due to a knee injury which would require another surgery. The 28-year-old said the nagging injury had come in the way of her dream to be a part of India’s Tokyo Olympics campaign this year.

“Today is a very emotional day for me as I have decided to retire from International Hockey,” she said in a statement issued by Hockey India.

In the national team since 2008, Lakra captained India during the 2018 Asian Champions Trophy, leading the side to a runner-up finish. She was part of the Indian team that won silver in the Asian Games in 2018; in the 2014 edition, she and the Indian team had won the bronze.

In her career, she played 139 matches for India.

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“I was very fortunate to have played at the Rio Olympics in 2016, India’s first appearance in over three decades. As much as I wish to be part of the Indian team as they prepare for the Tokyo Olympics, my knee injuries have cut short my dream. I have been told by the doctors that I would be requiring another knee surgery in the coming days and I am unsure how long it would take before I fully recover,” she explained.

Lakra said after recovering, she would continue to turn up in domestic hockey. “Pursuant to my treatment, I will play domestic hockey and play for NALCO who have supported my career by providing me a job,” she said.

'Great memories'

“I have come a long way in the sport and I carry with me some great memories with the Indian team who have stood strong by my side and the girls were always my family away from home,” she added.

Lakra thanked her team-mates and chief coach Sjoerd Marijne for their support. “My heartfelt thanks to Hockey India who ensured I was given the best treatment during my injury and I am grateful for their unparalleled support to women’s hockey.

“My family, my husband and friends back in Odisha have been my strongest supporters and I wish to thank them for helping me pursue my passion for hockey. I could not have come this far without their encouragement,” she said.

India captain Rani Rampal said Lakra would be missed.

“Congratulations @sunitalakraodisha26 for a wonderful carrier. Will definately (sic) miss the best moments we have shared on the field and dressing room for more than a decade. Praying for your recovery soon and all the best for your future endeavours,” she tweeted.


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