Olympic bronze medallist hockey players Rupinder Pal Singh and Birendra Lakra on Saturday said they were overwhelmed by the appreciation they received from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on their retirements and have pledged to give back to the game after being inspired by the leader's passion for sports.
"Overwhelmed to receive this letter from our Hon'ble PM @narendramodi ji. His constant support to athletes has motivated us to do our best at Tokyo2020. Sir, I am inspired by your passion for sport and pledge to continue my contribution to Indian sports. @PMOIndia @ianuragthakur," Rupinder tweeted on Saturday.
Lakra added: "We athletes contribute our life to 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 said it would be his primary focus to adhere to Modi's suggestion about visiting 75 schools as part of the government's Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav initiative.
Modi had sent a letter of appreciation to Rupinder and Lakra earlier this month, thanking them for their services to Indian hockey after they announced their retirements from the game on September 30.
Rupinder and Lakra, who played integral parts in India's historic bronze medal feat in Tokyo, quit the game to make way for youngsters.
In his appreciation letter, Modi said Rupinder has been a source of inspiration for Indian hockey for the last decade and has played a key role in the resurgence of the sport in the country.
"...I would like to personally thank you for all that you have done Indian hockey," Modi wrote on his letter dated October 12," read the letter posted by Rupinder.
"I would want to say that the people of India will have great memories of your own magic on the field.
"You have been a source of strength for the Indian hockey team and have been integral to every major tournament India has won from 2010 be it the Asian Men's Hockey Championships, Men's Hockey Asia Cup, Commonwealth Games, Hockey World League Finals and more.
"In the Tokyo Olympics, your performance was crucial to the team's historic success." Modi termed the bronze medal in Tokyo as a "watershed moment" in Indian hockey.
"The impact of this medal will not be restricted to the Olympics only. It will contribute to the rebirth of Indian hockey." The PM requested Rupinder to play his part in the Amrit Mahotsav by visiting various schools across India by August 2023 and interact with youngsters on ways to end malnutrition as well as popularise sports.
"This would be a great service to the coming generations," Modi wrote.
In his letter to Lakra, Modi expressed his gratitude to the defender for his "indelible contributions to Indian hockey".
"One of the things the coming generation of athletes can learn from you is a spirit of resilience. One cannot imagine how you would have felt when you missed the bus to Rio due to an injury. You successfully overcame that and made it to Tokyo, and thus became a part of the history that was scripted there," Modi wrote to Lakra.
"I can sense the pain when you wrote in your post that the thoughts 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."
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