This victory is vindication of the methods adopted by the team over the last few years
India winning an Olympic medal after 41 years is a very emotional moment.
Despite working hard, none of our teams could even reach the semifinals since 1980. So, when this team made the last four, it was a great achievement. And today’s bronze makes it even more special.
Having been part of the 1980 gold-winning team, today’s win has made me nostalgic. An Olympic medal is something that tells you that you have played against the best in the world.
There is no scope for trial and error in a competition like the Olympics. This victory is vindication of the methods adopted by the Indian team over the last few years.
Joy unbound: Indian players celebrate the victory over Germany. | Photo Credit: Gurinder Osan
What also impressed me is that even after losing badly to Australia, the team did not crumble and came back strongly.
Even though the semifinal defeat to Belgium did put us back a bit, this team showed incredible physical and mental toughness to bounce back.
It is never easy to fight back after conceding three goals, but this team did that. In the process, it also broke two barriers — beating higher-ranked teams and winning an Olympic medal.
Earlier, we used to often struggle under pressure, but it is good to see that the players have really improved in that area. They were always in control — physically, mentally, and emotionally.
That certainly contributed to their success.
I consider P.R. Sreejesh one of the best goalkeepers India has had in astro-turf hockey. He may have let in a few goals that could have been saved, but that doesn’t take away the fact that he has fought back in crunch situations and is one of the best in the world today.
Good work by Reid
I also feel that this coaching team — led by Graham Reid — should be retained because they have done a wonderful job.
This reminds me of Mr. Balkrishan Singh of the 1980 team. He was a very astute and visionary coach. Reid has been able to achieve similar success.
Reid’s general demeanour, precise selections and handling of the team have been wonderful.
(As told to Shayan Acharya)
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