Seasoned women defender Deep Grace Ekka retires from international hockey
New Delhi: Seasoned defender of the Indian women’s senior team, Deep Grace Ekka on Saturday announced her retirement from international hockey, ending a decade-long journey as a member of the national team. Ekka, who missed the recently concluded Olympic Qualifiers in Ranchi, called time on her illustrious career through a social medal post on Saturday.
A deep defender and a penalty corner expert, the 29-year-old from Lulkidhi, Sundergarh, Odisha, has earned 268 caps for India and scored 24 goals.
Ekka’s sojourn in international hockey began as early as 2011 when she was only 17 years old. She made her international debut in the Four-Nation Tournament in Argentina and then went on to play in the U18 Girls Asia Cup in Bangkok, Thailand and her strong performance led her to become a regular feature in the National Camp.
The 29-year-old etched her name in the history books when the Indian Junior squad she was part of won the historic bronze medal at the 2013 Women’s Junior Hockey World Cup in Germany. She doubled up for both junior and senior squads that year, winning a bronze with the Senior side at the Women’s Asia Cup in 2013 and a silver at the Asian Champions Trophy in 2013.
Ekka was also instrumental in the team qualifying for the Rio Olympic Games for the first time and she was a vital cog in the team’s defence line at the Tokyo Olympics where they finished fourth, winning over a billion hearts the world over for their brave performance in only their third appearance (1980, 2016 and 2021) at the Summer Games.
From the SAI-SAG Centre in Odisha, the 29-year-old Ekka has been a huge inspiration for several young players from her state.
As the curtains went down on her incredible career in international hockey, Hockey India President Padma Shri Dr Dilip Tirkey said, “For over a decade, Deep Grace Ekka has been a household name in women’s hockey. Her success in hockey has been a huge inspiration for youngsters not only in Odisha but across the country.
“She has shown great sportsmanship throughout her career and has immensely contributed to the team’s growth in the past decade. On behalf of Hockey India, I wish her the very best for the future and congratulate her on her illustrious career,” he added.