India’s former national hockey team captain, Dilip Tirkey, has been named Orissa’s top personality.
Tirkey, a 33-year-old tribal Catholic, received the Pria Odia - 2010 (top Orissa personality) award on February 5 from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
“I am very honored to be voted Orissa’s favorite person. This shows the state recognizes and remembers its people,” Tirkey said.
He was chosen by popular vote from a list of 10 well-known personalities.
The list also included film actor-director Hara Pattnaik, cricketer Pragyan Ojha and renowned sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik.
Regional TV channel ETV began the award in 2005 when the state chief minister was chosen as the top personality.
Social activist Bimala Kujur said Tirkey’s award was a proud moment for tribal people in Orissa.
“At a time when Orissa has experienced communal disharmony, Dilip has become a symbol of crossing barriers and bridges for every marginalized person,” she said.
Tirkey has also won a Padamshri, a civic award given by the federal government.
He is only the second Indian to have participated in three Olympics and three World Cups.
He was nicknamed “The Rock” for being one of the best deep defenders in the world and a penalty corner specialist. He led the Indian team for seven years.
“He is not only a role model for hockey players but for Catholics, as he is a regular church-goer,” Father Dibakar Parichha, trustee of the Dilip Tirkey Hockey Foundation, said.
Tirkey’s dedication to his profession brought him this honor, he added.
Faith keeps ‘The Rock’ on the ball