File Pic: Deepak Hooda (TOI Photo)
CHENNAI: Kabaddi surely had a good representation at the recently-concluded National sports awards. While Indian skipper Deepak Hooda was conferred with the Arjuna award, Manpreet Singh (Dhyan Chand award) and Krishan Hooda (Dronacharya award) too were honoured at the awards. In a chat with TOI, Deepak shared his happiness at getting one of the top sporting honours in the country and more. Excerpts:
Your first thoughts on receiving the Arjuna award…
For any player, representing a sport for the country is huge. I have had the honour of not playing for India but also bring laurels for the country in the last few years. But to be awarded the Arjuna is a testament to the hard work I have put in and I am humbled by this recognition. Days before the award was about to be declared, I wasn’t able to sleep properly. Once my name was announced, I couldn’t control my joy and this is one of the biggest achievements of my career.
When you were conferred with the award, did all the hardships that you had to go through came flashing back in your mind?
I have had to go through a lot of struggles to get to where I am today. There are no two ways about it. Success doesn’t come easily to anyone, but today I am happy to be rewarded for the hard yards I have put in.
With Manpreet and Krishan Hooda too being awarded during the National Sports awards, do you feel kabaddi is getting its due?
Oh, absolutely. Kabaddi as a sport has been producing results for years and Manpreet Singh and Krishan Hooda have brought numerous laurels for the country. Kabaddi is definitely getting its due. Our honourable sports minister Kiren Rijiju too has stated earlier that he will do his best to help kabaddi be part of the Olympics and it’s a good sign.
How have you trained during the lockdown?
It was tough to train initially but I made sure I got some equipment and got a workout station ready on the terrace of my house. Things began to improve slowly, and with lockdown getting relaxed in the last few weeks, my fitness levels have gone up.
Talk to us about the experience of leading India in the South Asian Games last year?
It was a proud moment for us as we bagged the top honours. We had a great team and had picked players for each position. Leading the side for the first time was a great responsibility for me and every player gave his best in the tournament.