And the winner is… PR Sreesjeh from India. The 33-year-old hockey goalkeeper has been voted as The World Games Athlete of the Year 2021. He topped the poll with an outstanding 127,647 votes. The Spanish Sport Climber Alberto Ginés López was ranked second (67,428 votes). Third place went to the Italian Wushu fighter Michele Giordano (52,046 votes). The winner, the runner-up and the second runner-up will all receive trophies and prizes from the official sponsor of The World Games Athlete of the Year, Protective Life.
The Athlete (or Team) of the Year was elected by online voting from 10th until 31st January. Supporters and friends of The World Games could cast a vote for their preferred top athlete/team of 2021. The shortlist comprised the 24 athletes/teams nominated by the IWGA member federations. More than 500,000 votes were casted by fans of The World Games sports.
PR Sreejesh received strong support not only from the hockey community, but most of all from his fans in his home country India. “I'm very honoured to win this award. First of all, a big thank you to FIH for nominating me for this award, and secondly thanks to all the Indian hockey lovers around the world who voted for me. By getting nominated I did my part, but the rest was done by the fans and hockey lovers. So definitely this award goes to them, and I think they deserve this award more than me. It's a big moment for Indian Hockey as well because everyone in the hockey community, all the hockey federations around the world voted for me, so it's great to see that support from the hockey family," he said after receiving the good news of his success.
Voted Goalkeeper of the Year for 2021 by the International Hockey Federation, PR Sreejesh has enjoyed an exceptional year, performing at his best level. His saves helped his team to claim bronze at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. It was India’s first Olympic hockey medal in 41 years. The hockey player from Kerala is admired not only for his goalkeeping skills but also for his sportsmanship.
He added to his comment about topping the poll: "I am a person who doesn't believe in individual awards, especially when you are part of a team. So it's a collective effort of a nation to get this kind of recognition."
CEO of the International Hockey Federation FIH, Thierry Weil, says: "On behalf of the global Hockey community, I’d like to wholeheartedly congratulate PR Sreejesh on this magnificent achievement. This is a great recognition for him, for his team and for Hockey as a whole. We also extend our sincerest thanks to all fans who voted for him. Athletes are the best ambassadors of our sport, and India’s goalkeeper certainly is a leader in this field too. We look forward to seeing him in action again in just a few days, for the third edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League!”
It is the second time in the history of the The World Games Athlete of the Year voting that the award goes to India. Hockey player Rani Rampal won the title in 2019.
“We have been part of The World Games family for quite some time now, and it is always a fun exercise to measure ourselves against other sports in the the race for Athlete of the Year. Last August Alberto made history, becoming the first-ever Olympic Champion in Sport Climbing, alongside Slovenian climber Janja Garnbret. He is young, extremely talented, and has a bright future ahead of him. I, and the whole IFSC family, are extremely proud of seeing him finish 2nd in the race for The World Games Athlete of the Year 2021.”
President Marco Scolaris of the International Sport Climbing Federation is proud for the second place: “We have been part of The World Games family for quite some time now, and it is always a fun exercise to measure ourselves against other sports in the the race for Athlete of the Year. Last August Alberto made history, becoming the first-ever Olympic Champion in Sport Climbing, alongside Slovenian climber Janja Garnbret. He is young, extremely talented, and has a bright future ahead of him. I, and the whole IFSC family, are extremely proud of seeing him finish 2nd in the race for The World Games Athlete of the Year 2021.”
Wushu star Michele Giordano from Italy finished on third place, and was surprised and happy about the succes: "I‘m so happy about that; from when we started the race I didn’t expect to get 3rd place. I was already proud to be there as a candidate and represent the Wushu world and my country. I want to thank all the people who helped me, from my wife and my family to all my friends around the world.”
All results of the online voting for the Athlete of the Year can be found here: https://www.theworldgames.org/awards/Athlete-of-the-Year-2021-94 In the days to come, you will learn more about the athlete of the year as well as the two runners-up!
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association, organised with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 7-17 July 2022. 3,600 athletes from 34 sports and over 100 countries will take part in The World Games.