Indian hockey player Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma

Imphal: CM N Biren Singh has assured Indian hockey player and Manipur native Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma of a state government job, besides the cash award of Rs 75 lakh promised by him earlier to all Olympians from the state who get a bronze medal.

The message was conveyed in a video call to Sharma, the midfielder in the Indian men’s hockey team that created history on Thursday by winning a bronze medal at the Olympics after 41 years.

Sharma is currently working as a senior ticket collector in Indian Railways.

Meanwhile, moments after the Indian hockey team’s victory over Germany, locals came out to the streets to celebrate the occasion.

Beating drums, local residents, including women, marched on the streets dancing and chanting slogans. Many of Sharma’s childhood friends, too, joined the celebrations and shouted: “Long Live India, Long Live Manipur, long Live Nilakanta!”

“It’s a big moment for us. This is the moment we have been waiting for. From here, he went on to become a member of Team India and then to the Olympics,” said Premjit Wahengbam, a childhood friend and neighbour of the hockey player.

Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma, 26, hails from Kontha Ahallup, a small village on the fringes of Imphal East District in Manipur.

Sharma, who also scored a goal in the Tokyo Olympics in an earlier match, has now become a local sensation and inspiration to upcoming hockey players in Manipur. He was also part of the Indian squad that won the 2016 Men’s Hockey Junior World Cup.

Meanwhile, the hockey player’s father Shanglakpam Inaocha Sharma, who is a cook by profession, has met his son for more than a year due to various tournaments and then preparations for the Olympics.

“Emotionally, we lost our heart when they were defeated in the semi-finals. We were so worried that they would be returning without a medal,” his father said.

“But, in today’s match, all of them played soulfully, giving their all-out efforts, thinking it’s their last mach in the Olympics. With their effort, they have now secured a medal that has brought a lot of happiness. All the anxiety, worry and fear have died now,” Nilakanta Sharma’s father added.

Also read | Manipur celebrates hockey player Nilakanta Sharma’s Olympic bronze

Meanwhile, as far as hockey is concerned, Manipur has produced many Olympians since 1984. The story started with hockey player Pangambam Nilkamal, the first Manipuri to participate in the Olympics in that year.

Nilkamal represented India as a goalkeeper of the men’s hockey team. Later, Khetrimayum Thoiba represented India in the Olympics of 1988, Khadangbam Kothajit in 2012 and 2016 and Kangujam Chinglensana in 2016.

Thokchom Anuradha also represented India in the 2016 Olympics as a forward player in the Indian women’s hockey team.

This year, two hockey players from Manipur represented India — former Indian team captain Pukhrambam Sushila Chanu in the women’s hockey team, besides Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma in the men’s squad.

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