Amandeep Lakra, the spirited defender of the Indian Junior Men’s Hockey Team, is elated about making the cut to represent the nation at the upcoming FIH Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup in Malaysia next month.
India will begin their campaign against Korea on December 5th in their Pool C game.
Sharing his excitement for the prestigious event, he reflected on his journey as a young player and being inspired by Hockey India President Padma Shri Dr Dilip Tirkey, a former India Captain and one of India’s greatest defenders. Dilip is also India’s most-capped player.
“As an aspiring player, I had the opportunity to meet the legendary Dilip Tirkey, who told me that he used to work out for four hours a day,” he said, before adding, “He also advised us to be hardworking and focused in our efforts to become good players. His words inspired me, and I began making similar efforts. I started out at Panposh Sports Academy, but after my father was transferred, I had to stop playing.”
He also stated that he is impressed by the drag-flicking abilities of current India Captain Harmanpreet Singh. “Watching him train closely here in SAI Bengaluru, I get to learn a lot from him and his on-field focus and style,” Amandeep said.
“I faced a little bit of difficulty finding places to train, so I started training on grass with my father,” he said of his early challenges as a budding player, before adding, “Then I received a call informing me that I had been invited to join the SAI Centre in Bhopal as part of the Khelo India scheme in 2020. Later, I returned to play in Nationals for Odisha and was chosen for the National Camp based on my performance.”
Amandeep played Sub Junior Nationals in 2015 in Delhi and in 2016 in Manipur and made his Junior Nationals debut for the Hockey Association of Odisha in 2021 at the 11th Hockey India Junior Men National Championship 2021 in Kovilpatti, Tamil Nadu, where he helped his side win the Bronze medal.
In 2021, Amandeep also received a call to the Junior Men’s National Camp and he made his debut for the Indian Junior Men’s Hockey team at the 2022 Sultan of Johor Cup, where he helped India win the Gold medal.
There’s been no looking back for this youngster from Odisha as he went on to represent India at the Men’s Junior Asia Cup earlier this year and helped India win the historic Gold medal.
He recalled being spurred by his senior compatriot’s historic performance in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where they ended a 41-year-long wait for a medal by clinching the Bronze, spurred Amandeep’s determination to play for India.
He said, “I started dreaming about achieving the same milestone and upon sharing the same with my father, he said that hard work was the only way I would get there.”
As he prepared to take part in the FIH Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup 2023 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from December 5th to December 16th, Lakra elaborated on the team’s preparations and the mood in the squad.
He said, “We have had a fantastic preparatory camp. We identified chinks in our armour and worked on them to cover all aspects of our game. Each and every one of us has worked extremely hard and there’s great camaraderie in the camp. I will give this tournament my all and hopefully contribute significantly to winning the Men’s Junior World Cup.”
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