Next aim is to qualify for Paris 2024: India hockey team captain Manpreet

Next aim is to qualify for Paris 2024 India hockey team captain Manpreet

NEW DELHI: Indian men’s hockey team captain Manpreet Singh had a mixed bag of feelings when his ‘big brother’ Rupinder Pal Singh told him about his plan to retire from the sport.

As a drag-flicker, Rupinder Pal Singh called time on his illustrious career last week. The two-time Olympian has been a vital cog of the Indian team for more than a decade and the captain of the team knows Pal’s outstanding contribution to the sport very well.

“We were together in Chandigarh, and he told me everything. I was also happy [knowing] that he is playing for so long and has left at such good momentum. But obviously as a friend and a little brother I was also sad that my big brother has retired from hockey,” Manpreet told ANI on Friday.

Rupinder, who made his international debut in 2010, played a pivotal role in India’s recent Bronze Medal-winning feat at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Having scored as many as four goals in the tournament, Rupinder was the second-highest goal-scorer in the team.

“But somewhere inside I was delighted that after winning an Olympic medal, he decided to retire because it’s everyone dream to win a medal in Olympics. And he achieved that dream and after that, he decided to retire,” the skipper added.

With the all-important Asian Games scheduled to be held in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China from September 10-25, 2022, the team’s top priority is to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics by winning the gold at the showpiece event.

“Firstly we will aim to qualify for Paris 2024 in Asian Games 2022. If we do so then we will have time to prepare ourselves for the next Olympics. We are already practising for our camp which is starting next week.”

“We are focusing that when we return to camp, our fitness level remains good with all the sweets that we have eaten [post-Tokyo 2020 bronze],” Manpreet quipped.

The Indian captain was adamant that the team will not stop here and will achieve more laurels in future tournaments. “For future tournaments like Asian Games 2022, 2022 Commonwealth Games, World Cup — our aim will be to give our 100 per cent and also win there. We will not stop here and we will aim for the world number 1 spot. And the possibility is that we can achieve this with hard work,” he said.

With many players in the team, resting their hockey sticks for good after Tokyo 2020, the influx of youngsters in the squad is imminent in future, especially considering the busy schedule of next year. When asked about what things he will tell the youngsters who will be joining the team, Manpreet said, “Adidas motto lives in my mind that ‘impossible is nothing’, if you do hard work. And when youngsters will join the squad I will tell them that we also never gave up and gave our 100 per cent every time on the field. It took some time but in the end, we got success after so much time. We will share our life experiences with them.”

Hockey India on Saturday had named the 30-member core probable group for the senior men’s national coaching camp to begin in SAI Bengaluru on October 4. After a successful campaign at the Tokyo Olympics where the team ended the 41-year wait of a medal, the Indian Men’s Core Group will begin the new Olympic cycle with an intent to improve upon this performance at Paris 2024. (ANI)