Tag Archives: Tokyo Olympics

Winning start at Tokyo Olympics is crucial for hockey team: Former Captain Ajit Pal Singh

 Harpal Singh Bedi

New Delhi: India’s only World Cup-winning captain Ajit Pal Singh feels that winning start is crucial for Indian hockey team at Tokyo Olympics as it will help them gain confidence and momentum. 

Writing for Hockey India’s Flashback series, Ajit Pal Singh, considered to be one of the finest midfielders of his era, exuded confidence of Indian team putting up good show at the Games.

“I know some of the players in the present team personally, and I know how capable they are, and I believe they will do well. 

“They should start well because that will help them gain confidence and momentum. They have my full support, and I wish them all the best from the core of my heart,”  Ajit Pal Singh who led India to its only World cup win in 1975 at Kuala Lumpur was also World Cup medallist (Bronze in ’71, Silver in ’73).

Going down memory lane, the 74-year-old recalled his dream Olympic debut and India’s back-to-back Bronze medal-winning feat at the 1968 Mexico and 1972 Munich Olympic Games.

He relives his memories “I was picked up for the coaching camp of the 1968 Olympic Games, while I was in college, representing my home state Punjab. I would say, I was the youngest player at the camp, and I feel I was very lucky that I ultimately got a chance to play in the 1968 Olympic Games,” 

Having lost the opening match against New Zealand, there was some reshuffling in the team, and I was brought in as the centre-half. My first Olympic match turned out to be against West Germany, who were one of the strongest teams during that time. 

“I had butterflies in my stomach the night before the match, so you can imagine the pressure, we had already lost the first match, and we were supposed to pit against a quality side. 

“I would say, I handled the pressure pretty well, and ended up contributing to the team’s 2-1 win. I never looked back from there, and eventually played all the matches at the Mexico Olympics.”

The team led jointly by  Prithipal Singh and Gurbux Singh after losing their first match to New Zealand, went on to win their remaining league stage matches against West Germany (2-1), Mexico (8-0), Spain (1-0), Belgium (2-1), Japan (5-0 walkout) and East Germany (1-0).

However, they lost to Australia (1-2) in the Semi-Final and for the first time in the Olympics history, India didn’t feature in the Final of the quadrennial Games. India beat West Germany 2-1 to clinch the Bronze medal.

He went on to narrate: “We went on to win each of our remaining league stage matches, but unfortunately, we lost to Australia in the Semi-Final and finished the campaign with a Bronze Medal. 

“So, that was something really special, you know going for the first time, playing all the big matches, and coming back even with a Bronze medal, I think was a great achievement as far as the Olympics is concerned”.

About team’s preparations and campaign at the 1972 Olympic Games, the Jalandhar-born player said, “Almost all the players were dropped after the Mexico Games, except four of us — Perumal Krishnamurthy, Harbinder Singh, Harmek Singh (who led the side ), and I could make it to the squad of the 1972 Olympics. 
“As an experienced player, I would say, we did contribute to the team in the best way possible. We prepared really well under our Coach KD Singh Babu, who led the 1952 Olympic-winning team, and a lot of top players from the 40s and 50s came in to help us at the coaching camp. 

At Munich also, we went with a target of winning the Gold medal, but unfortunately lost to Pakistan 2-0 in the Semi-Final, and that was a big loss, a big setback.

“Nevertheless, we came back with a bronze medal, which was India’s 10th consecutive medal at the marquee event. he added


The women’s hockey team has only one focus right now, which is Tokyo: Forward Udita

Harpal Singh Bedi 

Germany v India: Udita in action. Photo © FRANK UIJLENBROEK

New Delhi: For forward Udita, a handball player who switched to Hockey only in 2016, getting selected in the 16-member Indian Women’s Hockey Tokyo Olympic squad is a dream come true. 

Now she along with team mates is all geared up to perform well in the Games” 

Talking to Hockey India in Bengaluru about the team’s preparations for the Olympics, which begins on 23 July , Udita said that the upcoming weeks leading up to the tournament are going to be the most crucial days of each of the players’ lives

“The team only has one focus right now, which is Tokyo. There is no doubt that the next few weeks are going to be the most crucial days of our lives. Everything we do now, we will do with an aim to produce the best results at the Olympics,”

The 23-year-old from Haryana, who was part of the Silver Medal-winning team at the 2018 Asian Games, says .”It’s amazing where life takes you. I only started playing Hockey six years ago. Before that, I was busy playing handball. But life had other plans for me. 

“My handball Coach was absent for three consecutive days and led me to choose Hockey as an alternative sport. And the choice to play Hockey changed my life entirely,”

Udita, who made her Senior Team debut in 2017, admitted that she was lucky to have had the chance of playing for the Indian team in some of the biggest sporting events in her career so far,

“I was selected for the Junior National Camp in 2015 after some impressive performances in domestic tournaments. Then, I made my debut for the Junior Team in 2016. I later went on to lead the Junior India squad that won the Bronze at the 4th U-18 Women’s Asia Cup in 2016.

“I have been very fortunate to have got an opportunity to play for India in some of the biggest events like the Asian Games and the World Cup in London where we had some significant performances as a Team.”

 She has learned a lot from experienced players such as Rani and Vandana Katariya, “Training with Rani and Vandana has taught me a lot of things. They have played nearly 500 games for India between them and share a very good rapport. They are very experienced players and have always supported me during my time with the Team. I am very lucky to have seniors like them around in the Team.”


Swimmer Sajan Prakash qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Harpal Singh Bedi 

New Delhi: Sajan Prakash became the first Indian swimmer to make the ‘A’ qualifying time for the Tokyo Olympics recording the fastest time ever clocked by an Indian in 200m butterfly as he touched pads at 1:56.38 in Sette Colli, Rome – a FINA accredited meet. The ‘qualifying standard was 1:56.48. 

Sajan had clocked 1:56.96 in the previous meet in Belgrade, Serbia last week but was well-tapered and confident to make the mark in Rome.  “I have worked very hard for this, and I was confident with the way I had trained. This was my last chance, and I knew I had to do it here. I had come so close to the qualifying mark in the previous meets” he said.

In other races Kenisha Gupta clocked best Indian performance of 57.35 in 100m freestyle for women. On Friday, Srihari Nataraj missed the A qualifying mark by 0.05 seconds, having touched the pads at 53.90 in 100m backstroke . The ‘A’ cut for this event is 53.85 seconds. 

Swimming Federation of India  (SFI) Secretary General  Monal Chokshi, hailed Sajan Prakash’s performance calling it ‘ a historic moment for Indian swimming,”
“We are all thrilled with Sajan’s performance in Sette Colli, Rome which happened to be the last event to make the ‘A’ qualifying mark. Sajan’s achievement has broken the glass ceiling in Indian swimming which will inspire the generations to come. This stupendous result has come despite the several challenges posed by the pandemic.”

Virendra Nanavati, Executive Director, SFI said, “We are very happy that an Indian swimmer has finally hit the world stage with an ‘A’ qualifying time for the Olympic Games. This has been a dream and it has come true today. It has been one of the best build-ups to an Olympic Games in the history of Indian swimming with as many as six swimmers making the ‘B’ cut and this is the first-time multiple swimmers have come so close to the Olympic A cut.”


Manpreet Singh named captain of the 16-member Hockey team for Tokyo Olympics

Harpal Singh Bedi 

Indian Squad for Tokyo Games

New Delhi: Hockey India on Friday named 11 Olympic debutants in its 16-member men’s squad to be led versatile mid-fielder Manpreet Singh for the Tokyo Games. 

The Olympics is scheduled from 23rd July to 5th August in Tokyo. Indian is grouped in Pool A along with reigning Olympic Champions Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and hosts Japan 

The squad comprises of one goalkeeper, five defenders, five midfielders, and as many forwards.  

Veteran goalkeeper P. R. Sreejesh, Manpreet Singh,  Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh and Mandeep Singh are the five players in the team who were also part of the 2016 Rio Olympic squad. 

The debutants are Amit Rohidas,  Surender Kumar, Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit, Shamsher Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Gurjant Singh,  Lalit Kumar Upadhyay and Birendra Lakra. 

This is going to be the third successive Olympics for goalkeeper Sreejesh who had led the squad in 2016.  After missing the previous Olympics due to a major knee injury, Birendra Lakra gets a chance to be part of the squad for the Games.  

Experienced strikers Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh, both of whom were a part of the Rio Games team, are the surprised exclusions. 

Commenting on the team selection, Chief Coach Graham Reid said, “It has not been an easy process to make the final selection of 16 players as there is a lot of quality and ambition in this group of players.  

“The performance levels of all the athletes are at an optimum level and more importantly they work well together. They know what it means to represent the country at the Olympics. We are now focused on training with the same intensity and our goal is to put forward our best performance as a collective unit in Tokyo.” 

As a part of Olympics preparations, the team travelled to Europe and Argentina and put up a good show against teams like Germany, Great Britain and reigning Olympic Champions Argentina . 

The team also got a chance to return to high-level competition like FIH Pro League, where they defeated Argentina in both the matches and set the tone for the Olympics 

It has been 41 years since the Indian team last won an Olympic Medal. The current team has won the 2016 & 2018 Asian Champions Trophy, 2017 Asia Cup Gold and 2019 World Series as well over the last few years.  

Goalkeeper: PR Sreejesh 

Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Surender Kumar, Amit Rohidas, Birendra Lakra 

Mid-fielders: Hardik Singh, Manpreet Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit 

Forwards: Shamsher Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Gurjant Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Mandeep Singh