New Delhi: The legendary Balbir Singh Senior, member of three Olympic gold medal winning teams, was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural Hockey India Awards here on Saturday.
The action-packed ceremony culminated with the 90-year-old receiving the trophy for Major Dhyan Chand Lifetime Achievement Award along with a cheque of Rs 30 lakh.
Recipient of other top awards were Birendra Lakra and Vandana Kataria, who were named Player of the Year in their respective categories. Their efforts fetched them Rs 25 lakh each.
The loudest applause was expectedly reserved for Balbir Singh, who was part the famous gold winning teams from 1948 to 1956 Olympics. His 1952 record of most goals (five) in an Olympic final still stands and he also figures in the list of 16 iconic Olympians of all-time.
"I felt greatly honoured about being named among 16 iconic Olympians during the London Olympics but this award is sweeter as it is given by own country. I am deeply honoured with this gesture," said Balbir.
In what comes as a big boost to the players and coaches, a total prize money of Rs 2.81 crore was distributed at the felicitation ceremony.
The efforts of current senior and junior teams were also recognised. The men's team, which is now looking forward to next month's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, was rewarded for its showing at the 2014 Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, where it won gold and silver respectively.
The women's team was feted for winning the FIH World League Round 2 in Delhi last month.
Awards list: Harendra Singh (Jaman Lal Sharma Award for invaluable contribution), PR Sreejesh (Goalkeeper of the Year), Deepika (Defender of the Year), Manpreet Singh (Midfielder of the Year), Akashdeep Singh (Forward of the Year), Namita Toppo (Upcoming Player of the Year - women u-21), Harmanpreet Singh (Upcoming Player of the Year - men u-21), Vandana Kataria (Female Player of the Year), Birendra Lakra (Male Player of the Year), Balbir Singh Sr (Major Dhyan Chand Lifetime Achievement Award).
Balbir Singh added: "I share the entire credit of the medals and trophies with my team mates and coaches. Dada Dhyan Chand was my role model. I attained inspiration from him and continue to do so till date. I am grateful for getting acknowledged so humbly. It is an honour to share this award today with all the sportsmen".
On being named Goalkeeper of the Year, an excited PR Sreejesh said: "It is an honour that I received the award from Baljit Singh and I have always looked upto him. I am very happy and I think I deserved it".
Male Player of the Year Birendra Lakra said: "I was hoping that I would get an award today and I am so happy to have been chosen for the Dhruv Batra Award for Player of the Year".
"It feels great to have won the award today. Will aim to play better and make my country proud," said Female Player of the Year, Vandana Kataria.