The Indian Men’s Hockey team created history at the Tokyo Olympics by clinching the bronze medal. They ended the 41-year jinx and finally secured a medal at the Summer Games. Young midfielder Hardik Singh was one of the vital cogs in the middle for head coach Graham Reid.
Hardik had a fantastic campaign in Tokyo and overall he grew in stature by tackling situations in high pressure outings. The 22-year-old scored two crucial goals for the Men in Blue in his debut Olympics.
“After the 2018 World Cup, this (Tokyo Olympics) was my second major tournament with the senior team, and I wasn’t really satisfied with my performance in the World Cup. Hence, I wanted to prove myself that I can do better on bigger stages. So, for me, it was a great challenge, and I am glad that I could do well, and was able to contribute to the team’s success,” explained Hardik.
Hardik scored the crucial goal against England that led the Men in Blue to the knockout rounds after four decades. He recalled how it was a team goal as he credited Harmanpreet and Nilakanta for their efforts as he managed to find the net.
“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.”
The youngster credited team bonding and understanding as to the keys to success for the Indian team in Tokyo. He added, “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’s 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.”
However, Hardik feels that the Tokyo Olympics is now a thing of the past as the Indian team is looking ahead to direct qualification at the Paris Olympics in 2024. For that, the Men in Blue need to win the Gold medal at the Asian Games.
“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. 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.” Hardik Singh concluded.