New Delhi: India’s men’s and women’s hockey goalkeepers PR Sreejesh and Savita Punia have been voted the FIH Goalkeepers of the Year 2021/22 in their respective categories, according to the international hockey federation (FIH).
Savita was magnificent in the Indian goal, often surprising her opponents with her ability to pull off saves from impossible situations during the 2022 Tokyo Olympics and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
“It therefore comes as no surprise that she received nearly twice as many votes from her peers around the world, as anyone else nominated in the best goalkeeper category at the FIH Hockey Stars Awards,” said an FIH statement.
Savita is not just India’s last line of the defence, she also plays a crucial role in leading the side, having taken over the captaincy from Rani Rampal, who missed a large part of the previous year due to injury.
Savita was instrumental in leading India to a podium finish in the Pro League 2021/22, in their debut campaign, pulling off 57 saves in the 14 games she played.
Her form only improved at the Women’s World Cup, as she pulled off some incredible saves as India held the 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, according to FIH.
As India headed to the Commonwealth Games following a dismal World Cup campaign, Savita once again inspired her team, as India ended a 16-year podium drought in Birmingham. She had a superb game in the bronze-medal match against New Zealand, which included multiple match-winning saves in the shoot-out that brought about the end of the medal drought for the Indian women’s team.
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, finishing on top with 37.6 points. Argentina legend Belen Succi received second most points with 26.4, followed by Hockeyroos stalwart Jocelyn Bartam who finished with 16 points.
PR Sreejesh, the 34-year-old men’s team goalkeeper who is into his 16th full year as international for the country, once again showed his value to the team, playing in all 16 games in the Pro League as India finished third. He also played all six games at 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games where India won silver.
During the course of the season, Sreejesh also completed 250 appearances for India, becoming the eighth Indian to achieve the figure, and the only goalkeeper to do so.
Sreejesh has become the third goalkeeper to win back-to-back FIH Goalkeeper of the Year awards. 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.
Sreejesh finished the voting with 39.9 total points, followed by Belgium’s Loic van Doren who finished second with 26.3 points and Netherlands’ Primin Blaak in third place scoring 23.2 points.