Promising goalkeeper Bigan Soy on Thursday said she would work harder to fetch more laurels for the country after helping India create history by winning the nation's first-ever bronze medal in the Junior Women World Cup in Monchengladbach, Germany.
"I am very happy. It is the best phase of my life. I will work harder to win more games (for India)," Soy told PTI soon after landing here.
"The reception at the airport was warm and thrilling. The welcome I received here will remain etched in my mind forever," the 20-year-old BA student said.
Soy, who hadn't played even for a minute in the tournament prior to bronze medal match against England, was turned out to be star for India in the penalty shoot out.
With the result tied at 1-1 after 70 minutes of action, India replaced their first choice goalkeeper Ningombam with Soy. In the shootout, where only five out of the 14 penalties were converted, Soy saved five attempts from the English women as India eked out a 3-2 win on penalties.
Expressing her delight on meeting the new Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, Soy said the CM congratulated and inspired her to scale heights in hockey.
"No, not yet," she said, when asked whether the Chief Minister had assured any cash prize for her.
Soy, who played in the silver-medal winning Indian U-18 and U-21 girls Asia Cup in 2012, thanked all those who helped her accomplish "this moment of glory".
"There have been several people, including coaches and friends, who have inspired me. I thank them all," she added. Soy's journey, however, was not smooth. She learned hockey by playing with sticks made of bamboo, just like other tribal children, who play Khashi tournaments (goat for the winner of the tournament) in Jharkhand's tribal dominated villages.
"I started playing with sticks made of bamboo at my village Bandgaon in West Singhbhum district, as I did not have a proper hockey stick (then)," said Soy.
Olympian Sylvester Dungdung, a member of the 1980 Moscow Olympics gold medal-winning Indian team, said Soy had joined Bariatu School in 2006 and had been under his training following her selection in the National Sports Talent Competition, a programme by the SAI to tap young talent.
"Now (from 2012) she is at the Sports Authority of India, Ranchi and I am very happy. She too started her career with bamboo sticks just like me and other hockey players," Dungdung said, recalling 'Khashi' tournaments in the villages near forests.
Congratulating Soy, SAI's Jharkhand Coordinator Sushil Kumar Verma said, three other girls -- Rashmi Kumari, Sumitra Marandi and Pushpa Tirkey -- of the centre have played in school World Cup and reached the quarterfinals in April this year.
Sports Minister Geetashree Oraon congratulated Soy and lauded her crucial saves during the shootout against England.