Kochi: P R Sreejesh, goalkeeper of the Indian hockey team that won bronze medal at the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics, was felicitated by Malayala Manorama at a grand function here on Friday.
As a token of appreciation, a gold medal of seven sovereigns was presented to him by Malayala Manorama Editor Philip Mathew. A laminated plaque containing the image of the front page of Malayala Manorama featuring the hockey team's feat was also awarded to Sreejesh.
Sreejesh's parents P V Raveendran and Ushakumari, and wife Dr. P K Aneeshya, children Anusree and Sreeansh were present at the function held at the Malayala Manorama office in Panampilly Nagar.
"I thank Malayala Manorama for the continued support and patronage. You have played a significant role in my growth since the formative years of my career," said Sreejesh after accepting the honour.
Malayala Manorama chief news editor R Rajeev and chief reporter Aneesh Nair spoke on the occasion. A cake made by chef Babu Panachyil, replicating the front page of Malayala Manorama with the news and pictures of the hockey team's Olympic glory, was cut by Sreejesh and his children.
Learning lessons from failures
According to Sreejesh, the lessons he learned from the failures at previous Olympics helped him perform well in Tokyo.
"I have been playing hockey for the past 21 years. I played for the Indian junior team in 2004 and broke into the senior team in 2006. It was sad that for the first time since our debut in 1928, India failed to qualify for the Olympics in 2008. We were under tremendous pressure in the next four years. We were a relieved lot after making the cut for the 2012 London Olympics, but unfortunately we could not win a single game there. After that disastrous performance, Spanish coach Jose Brasa took over and made an instant impact. In 2013, Terry Walsh was appointed coach of the team. We went on to win gold at the 2014 Asian Games and silver at the Commonwealth Games under him. In 2016, the team qualified for the Rio Olympics. I was made the captain and we were high on confidence. However, Rio taught us some valuable lessons the hard way. There are certain basic things in sports to be successful. We should never underestimate any opponent and take them lightly. India settled for a 2-2 draw with Canada in the final group game and the result pitted us against the mighty Belgians in the quarterfinal, which we lost 1-3.
"In Tokyo, there were no easy matches. Though we were thrashed 1-7 by Australia, all hope was not lost. We were confident of getting past Great Britain in the quarterfinal. We did it comfortably and entered the last-four stage. We knew that even if we lost the semifinals, we had a chance to win a medal. However, after we lost to Belgium, we had to win the third-place playoff at any cost. Germany were tough opponents. Beating them 5-4 to win the bronze medal was a great achievement.
"Even if a goalkeeper made so many saves, people would be curious to know who all scored the goals. No one asks how many attempts were saved by the keeper. I believe I'm getting all this attention because of that penalty corner save in the final few seconds against Germany. We were accorded a rousing reception in New Delhi upon our return from Tokyo. I must say that the reception I got in Kochi was even bigger."