Defender Deep Grace Ekka is one of the unsung heroes of the Indian women's hockey team.
Lakra's loss leaves a whole to be filled; Deep Grace Ekka is more than ready for it.
“I am particularly thrilled to be taking over and playing a senior role,” she told the Olympic Channel. “Sunita’s experience in the backline will be missed, especially at the Olympics, but who can stop injuries? It’s a part of our game. The team learned a lot from her and will apply the same in our upcoming matches.”
Deep Grace Ekka has 150 caps for India and her ability to keep learning and improving is one of her biggest strengths. “The last ten years have been surreal, and most of the learnings came from my early mistakes,” she stated.
“I remember playing a tournament in South Africa where, because of my mistake, we ended up conceding a goal. That was the biggest setback for me. But it is for mistakes like these that you learn to be a better player, to cope with stress and how not to succumb under pressure. I am grateful to have a team that is supportive of one another.”
The Indian hockey women’s team qualified for their second-consecutive Olympics in dramatic fashion against the USA, and the defender believes the team will be better for the experience they had last time.
“At Rio 2016, most of the members of the team were inexperienced as it was our only first Olympics. We were naïve and did not understand the magnitude at which the Olympics is played and celebrated in the sports circuit,” revealed Deep Grace Ekka.
“A lot changed in the last four years and only for the better for Indian hockey. We played many international tournaments, got enough exposure and now we can’t wait to play at the Olympics,” said the 25-year-old.
The last time the Indian hockey women's team participated at the Games, they languished at the bottom of the Group B table after they were unable to win any of their five matches, of which one was drawn, managing only three goals and conceding 19.
But what was significant was that the Indian women's hockey team had qualified for the Games after 36 years and it was their participation, regardless of the results, that has spurred the rise of Indian women's hockey.
Their improved performances in the past four years gives fans hope of a much better show this time around.
"The team's collective goal is to win an Olympic medal," affirmed Deep Grace Ekka, resonating the confidence within the camp ahead of Tokyo 2020.