Indian hockey team defender Varun Kumar was heartbroken when he failed to make it to the 16-member team for the Tokyo Olympics. But the 26-year-old still accompanied the Men in Blue at the Japanese capital as one of the reserve players. The Olympic Committee allowed every team to bring in some reserve players in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.
The Punjab born defender along with Simranjeet Singh made his debut at the Olympics owing to the Olympic Committee rule of bringing in additional players.
“When the squad for the Olympics was announced, my name was not part of the 16-member squad. I still remember that day very well and I was evidently disappointed,” recalled Varun.
The 26-year-old highlighted how the IOC’s allowance of two more players opened up a door for him and Simranjeet Singh. But the defender was still sad that he failed to make it to the final 16-member squad for the Summer Games. He went to Tokyo with the positive intention of proving himself at the big stage.
“But after a few days when IOC allowed hockey teams to expand to 18 players, Simranjeet and I were called up as alternate athletes. It came as a huge relief but somewhere at the back of my mind I was still upset about not making it to the final 16 and I really wanted to prove myself.”
Varun revealed how he had a one on one chat with Indian Men’s Hockey team captain and midfielder Manpreet Singh before leaving for Tokyo for the Olympics and it helped him a lot. The 26-year-old overcame that sadness of exclusion and boosted him for the job at hand.
“It really helped that captain Manpreet had a long chat with me and pumped me up mentally. Manpreet has been a big influence in my career from a very young age as we played in the same academy and him talking to me made a lot of difference.
“I stopped beating myself up for not being good enough to make the 16-member squad. I started focusing on how I can make this opportunity count and deliver when the team needs me,” stated Varun.
Once the Indian team reached Tokyo they were only getting better with each game. The Men in Blue created history when they defeated Germany 5-4 in the Bronze medal match and broke the 41-year long jinx. They finally bagged a medal at the Olympics playing exceptional hockey against some of the top nations in the world.
Varun played a pivotal role in India’s 3-1 win over Argentina in the group stage as he scored the first goal of the match. He was very effective in defence and proved his worth every time he was called up by coach Graham Reid.
It was indeed a fantastic experience in Tokyo. Winning the bronze and standing on the podium along with my teammates is perhaps the best moment of my life. Now my priority will be to improve in every aspect.
“We have had a good break after the Olympics and we are all waiting to return to camp in October,” he said.