Drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh and midfielder Birendra Lakra announced their retirements from international hockey on Thursday.
Singh and Lakra were both members of the national hockey team led by Manpreet Singh that clinched at the Olympics after 41 years. Rupinder said it was time to pave the way for youngsters to play their chance at the international stage. While Lakra was the vice-captain in Tokyo.
India claiming victory over the Bronze at the 2020 Olympics (Tokyo) was an astonishing moment for the country, the occasion for which the country was waiting since 1980.
Singh (30) has played over 200 matches for India and is considered one of the best drag flickers in the world.
‘The past couple of months have undoubtedly been the best days of my life. Standing on the podium in Tokyo along with my teammates with whom I have shared some of the most incredible experiences of my life was a feeling I will cherish forever,” Singh wrote in the social media post.
“I believe it is time for me to make way for young and talented players to experience every great joy I have felt in these last 13 years of representing India,” he added.
It was 2010 at the Sultan Azlan Shah Tournament held in Ipoh, where he played his maiden international match with India clinching gold. His name was on feature continuously for many historic victories of India including the Asian Games (2014) triumph and the Asian Champions Trophy, 2016, where India won Gold. Though his name was dropped from the team briefly in 2018, he made his way back to the team and became a part of the team that triumphed in Tokyo.
Meantime, Mr Lakra has crawled his way up through the ranks of the junior team set-up to debut for the senior national team in the 2010 South Asian Games and was a part of team India’s witnessing glory in 2014 Asian Games, bronze Medal feat in the World League Final 2015 in Raipur, silver medal-winning campaign at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar Odisha 2019 among others.
In his well-established career, the two-time Olympian caught the eye in almost all the major tournaments, including the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup in 2014 and 2018. He, however, failed to take part in the Rio Olympics 2016 due to a knee injury and made a robust fightback to the Indian setup by playing an instrumental role in the team’s gold medal-winning accomplishment at the 2016 Asian Champions Trophy.