ESPN India Awards: Jury speak - Manisha Malhotra

Hockey India

My personal opinion for the ESPN Awards would be that while all the candidates had a lot of merit, the women's hockey team and their performances over the last 3-4 years has impressed me the most.

Every sport is tough but to get it right in a team sport requires a collective effort of not only the players but a lot of people around them. It takes more time to develop than an individual athlete, and that is why I think that they have done a good job.

They had always been in the shadow of the men's team, but since 2012, they started assembling a team which can compete on the world stage. And they have done so pretty systematically. Even in Rio, while they were nowhere near medal contention, one could see that they had come a long way from where they started.

I do believe every athlete is flattered with an award and ESPN being a big influencer in sport would definitely motivate them. As a sport platform, it is important for the media to cultivate athletes, and stories (positive or negative) should always aim for a change for the better. As long as that is the intention, I think there will be a healthy trust between a sportsperson and journalist.

Manisha Malhotra is a former national champion, was a member of India's Fed Cup team as well as an Asian Games silver medallist, She has followed up her successful playing career by playing an active part in supporting India's athletes. She was in charge of the Mittal Champions' Trust, one of the first private non-profit organisations set up to assist elite Indian athletes.