New Delhi, Jan 1 (IANS) The Indian men’s hockey team captain, Manpreet Singh, is looking ahead to end the country’s four-decade long medal drought at the Olympic Games when the competition is held in Tokyo this year. While the men’s team won an Olympic medal in 1980 — a gold — the women’s team has never won a medal at the world’s biggest sporting extravaganza.
“We are very excited about getting back into the international circuit. We are really looking forward to playing against an international team before the Olympics. A few matches against a good team will help us prepare for the Olympics,” said Manpreet.
“This year is very important for us. We have practiced very hard in the last few months and have raised our game to a level that is close to which we usually operate in international games. If we play to our potential at the Olympics in July, then we will surely bring glory to our country. We have to go into the Olympics with a mindset of clinching a medal,” he said.
The Olympics, originally scheduled to be staged last year before being postponed due to Covid-19, are to be held from July 23 to August 8.
The men’s team are placed in Group A, which includes Olympic champions Argentina, world No.2 Australia, Asian Games champions and hosts Japan, New Zealand, and Spain.
On the other hand, the Indian women’s team is placed in Group B along with World Cup winners the Netherlands, World Cup runners up Ireland, Great Britain, Germany, and South Africa.
The women’s team is set to embark upon a tour of Argentina. Hockey India said that it is also looking to arrange friendly matches for the men’s team before they face Argentina in the FIH Pro League in April and the Olympics.
Women’s captain Rani Rampal said that the team is raring to play international hockey again. India’s last international assignment had been a tour of New Zealand over a year ago before the coronavirus pandemic forced cancellation of matches for the rest of the last year.
“We are very excited to make our return to the international circuit. The year 2020 was really tough for us. However, we continued to practice our skills in the national coaching camp. All the players in the team are feeling very confident about their games and it will be interesting to see how each one of them performs in a match situation after staying away from the international circuit for almost one year,” said Rani.
“If we play to our potential against Argentina then we will attain a lot of confidence for the all-important Olympics, where we are aiming nothing short of a medal. Hopefully, we can make history in Tokyo and make our country proud. We are going to give our absolute best in every match we play this year.”