One of the most experienced players in the Indian men’s Hockey team, goalkeeper PR Sreejesh says that the team cannot hold back their excitement to feature at the Tokyo Olympics. The custodian also added how the team is mentally prepared for any surprises.
The 35-year-old goalkeeper reached Tokyo along with the entire team and the coaching staff on Sunday. Sreejesh said, “There is tremendous excitement among the players in the squad. This is the moment we had all been waiting for. We can’t wait to get on with the matches and give our best and build our momentum match-by-match.
“I think no one can predict any team this time simply because we haven’t seen each other play over the past 15 months. There could be a lot of surprises too and we are mentally prepared for it,” added Sreejesh.
India are clubbed in Pool A along with New Zealand, Australia, Olympic champions Argentina, Spain and hosts Japan. It was Sreejesh who captained the team during the Rio Olympics back in 2016. So he knows how things can change in each game especially when they keep coming thick and fast.
“We need to shake off the nerves quickly and produce a good performance in the opening match. Getting off to a strong start is quite crucial in a tournament like the Olympics. It will give the right momentum for other matches in the group stage,” he added.
The 35-year-old goalkeeper is an avid follower of the Olympics and remembers PT Usha’s heroics at the Summer Games. It was from that time he started dreaming of representing the nation at the Olympics.
“My earliest Olympic memory was of PT Usha and because I come from Kerala, every household knew her name and how close she had come to winning a medal in the Olympics. In hockey of course, I looked up to Dhanraj Pillay and followed his career closely,” said Sreejesh, emphasising the impact of the two icons.
Sreejesh made his India debut way back in 2006 but had to wait till 2012 to represent the country at the Olympics. However, now the men’s hockey team’s aim will be to win a medal after so many years. It can also turn into a perfect farewell for the veteran custodian.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t qualify in 2008 for Beijing and hockey was facing a real slump in those days. But things improved. Between 2008 and 2012, the first big aim was to qualify for the London Olympics. Though we had a dismal outing there, the players who stayed on in the core group knew we had to set the bar higher and focus on becoming a dominant team in Asia.
“We aimed at the 2014 Asian Games and a direct qualification for the Rio Olympics,” Sreejesh added as he gears up to be a vital part of Graham Reid’s men on his third Summer Games.