New Delhi: Competing in his third straight and possibly last Olympics, Indian hockey team’s seasoned goalkeeper P R Sreejesh says he has “made a lot of sacrifices” and wants to make them count at all costs in Tokyo. In the upcoming Olympics starting from July 23, eight-time champions India will look to break their over four-decade-long podium jinx at the Games.
Since making his senior team debut in 2006, Sreejesh had only one dream in sight — to become an Olympic medallist. On the personal front, the 35-year-old, regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world and a former India captain, said it was mentally tough for him to stay away from his family for so long amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“When you make these sorts of sacrifices, I always try to put a question mark after that, like why I am staying away from my kids, my family? But I know the answer.
“We have a very good history in hockey and when I look back into my own career, I know I do have a lot of FIH medals, I have medals almost in every tournament but not one in World Cup or Olympics,” Sreejesh said in an interview.
“It can be my last Olympic Games so, for me, it’s about what more I can achieve as an athlete, what I can get from this Olympics? That can only be a medal. That’s a dream and that is helping me to sacrifice everything.
“This is what is giving me extra energy. This is what is helping us to wake up from our bed every morning and work hard. This is a dream I am living for the last 15 years and willing to do so for the next 15 years,” he added.
After the Tokyo Games was postponed by a year due to the pandemic, the Indian team was confined to the four walls of the SAI centre in Bengaluru. India last won the hockey gold was way back in the 1980 Moscow Games. “This is an opportunity for us to be a part of history of Indian hockey, to be part of the Olympic medallist list and this is what is helping me to just focus on my game,” Sreejesh said before departing for Tokyo.
The Olympics are being held under extraordinary circumstances with no spectators allowed because of the pandemic, but Sreejesh said the strict protocols in the Japanese capital should not be a problem for the country’s hockey teams.
“Past one and a half years we are living under same circumstances and these are going to continue in Tokyo. If you are in Bengaluru SAI centre you are not allowed to go out, you are now allowed to meet people living outside the centre.
“We only go from our hostel rooms to training grounds. This is exactly what we are going to encounter in Tokyo,’’ he said.
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