Eager to change the shade of the Tokyo bronze, the Indian men’s hockey team is now focussing on directly qualifying for the Paris Olympics by winning next year’s Asian Games, says young midfielder Hardik Singh.
The Manpreet Singh-led Indian team had ended a 41-year-old long wait for an Olympic medal when it clinched the bronze at the Tokyo Games last month.
With the all-important Asian Games scheduled to be held in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China from September 10 to 25 next year, the team’s top priority will be to qualify for the Paris Olympics by winning the gold at the continental tournament.
“We are eager to begin our quest for gold at the Paris Olympics. We will have to approach step-by-step, and our first step will be to qualify directly for the Olympic Games 2024 by winning Gold at the 2022 Asian Games,” Hardik said in a Hockey India media release.
“Then in 2023, we have another marquee event- Hockey World Cup, which will be played in Odisha, so there are challenging and exciting times ahead, and we are looking forward to it,” he added.
The 22-year-old, who was one of the key figures in the Indian midfield, scored two crucial goals in his debut Olympic Games in Tokyo.
When asked about the reason behind India’s success at the Tokyo Olympics, Hardik said, “We are a tight-knit team, and I think that was our biggest strength at the Olympics. We have formed a special bond, and we were able to master the best out of each other skills.
“After the disappointing result against Australia, we sat together and openly spoke to each other about what went wrong and what we needed to do in the upcoming matches to put up a much better performance. That really helped us a lot to bounce back and eventually win the medal for the country.”
He scored a memorable field goal in the quarterfinal match against England, which helped the team enter the medal rounds at the Olympics after more than four decades.
While recalling the iconic goal, the young gun said, “It was a team goal, our defence line stuck together to hold the 2-1 lead at a very crucial phase of the game as we were down to 10 men.
“Harmanpreet tackled the ball really well, he then passed it to me, and I had open space to penetrate into the striking circle, although my shot bounced off the goalkeeper’s pad, luckily I received the rebound, and found the back of the net.
“Nilakanta also played a crucial role here as he blind spotted the goalkeeper, which helped me find the gap during that rebound,” he added.