Sreejesh, Savita win FIH goalkeeper awards for second successive year

P R Sreejesh and Savita Punia
P R Sreejesh and Savita Punia. File photos: IANS

New Delhi: India's P R Sreejesh and Savita Punia were on Wednesday voted FIH Men's and Women's Goalkeeper of the Year respectively for the second year running, on the back of their strong shows under the bar.

In his 16th year as a senior international for India, Sreejesh once again showed his value to the team, playing in all 16 games in the FIH Hockey Pro League as India finished in third position.

The Keralite also played in all six games at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games where India won the silver medal.

"The longevity of P R Sreejesh's career continues to defy logic as the 34-year-old Indian shot-stopper continues to raise his game as the years roll on," the FIH said in a statement.

Sreejesh got 39.9 total points in the voting, followed by Belgium's Loic van Doren (26.3 points) and Netherlands' Primin Blaak (23.2 points). The votes were cast online by experts (40%), teams (20%), fans (20%) and media (20%).

Sreejesh is the third player to win back-to-back FIH Goalkeeper of the Year award. A similar feat was achieved in the past by David Harte (Ireland) who won the award in 2015 and 2016, and Vincent Vanasch (Belgium) who won it three consecutive times from 2017 to 2019.

During the course of the season, Sreejesh also completed 250 international appearances, becoming the eighth Indian and the only goalkeeper to achieve the feat.

"No doubt, this is a special award because the hockey fans are voting for us. This is a big honour for me and a testimony to all the hard work," said Sreejesh who is currently in the national camp at the SAI Centre, Bengaluru, for the upcoming FIH Hockey Pro League.

"Winning awards, no matter at what stage in your career you are at, is always a motivating factor. This award surely motivate me to further improve and do well in an all-important year where we will play the World Cup,” he added.

The 32-year-old Savita finished on top of the voting with 37.6 points. Argentinian legend Beln Succi received second most points with 26.4, followed by Australian stalwart Jocelyn Bartam (16 points).

Savita is now only the third athlete to win the Goalkeeper of the Year (women) for consecutive years since the inception of the award in 2014.

"This surely is a big surprise and a very pleasant one. I am sure many Indian hockey fans voted for us and I thank each one of them," said Savita who is representing Haryana in the ongoing National Games in Gujarat.

Savita was instrumental in leading India to a podium finish in the FIH Hockey Pro League 2021-22, in their debut campaign, pulling off an astounding 57 saves in the 14 games she played.

Her form only improved at the FIH Hockey Women's World Cup, as she pulled off some incredible saves as India held eventual gold medallists England to a draw in the pool stages. She also had a remarkable game in the cross-over match against Spain, making seven saves.

Savita then inspired the team to bronze medal at Birmingham 2022, as India ended a 16-year podium drought at the Commonwealth Games. She had a stellar game in the bronze medal match against New Zealand, which included multiple match-winning saves in the shoot-out.

On Tuesday, Indian forward Mumtaz Khan was voted the FIH Women's Rising Star of the Year on the back of her stellar role during the country's campaign at the Junior World Cup in South Africa earlier this year. 

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