Indian men's hockey team midfielder Nilakanta Sharma is hopeful that his contribution to the country’s bronze medal-winning feat at the Tokyo Olympics will inspire a generation of youngsters from his home state, Manipur, to take up the sport.
“Definitely there is a lot of potential for Manipur hockey to grow further. A lot of good things are happening in the state and the emphasis is on creating good infrastructure. I hope my performance in Tokyo has inspired more youngsters from my state to take up hockey," the 26-year-old said in a Hockey India release.
Nilakanta was a vital cog in India's midfield in Tokyo, where the country ended a 41-year-old Olympic medal drought. Before Tokyo, India's last medal -- a gold -- came in the 1980 Moscow Games.
Nilakanta, who was promoted to the senior rank in 2017, a year after winning the FIH Junior World Cup in Lucknow, believes the key to success for a player is continuous improvement.
"I have had some time to introspect about my own performance over these past few years with the senior team. I think I have been very fortunate to have played along with some of the best players in India and have been able to learn a lot from them.
"I always like to keep things simple and execute what is expected of me. Each player is assigned a certain role by the coach and I just try to stick to it," he said.
"I believe there is a lot of scope for me to improve my own game from here on and build on this performance in Tokyo. It was absolutely an incredible feeling to win the bronze medal."