Indian hockey men’s team striker Mandeep Singh has set the highest bar possible for the side, claiming that they are aiming for a podium finish at the 2020 Olympics, a feat they have not achieved for 40 years.
“It is the Olympic year and we as a team have put in a lot of effort to qualify for the Games,” he told the Press Trust of India. “We look forward to a winning haul and make our country proud in Tokyo.”
His feelings were echoed by young midfielder Vivek Sagar Prasad. “The team believes that Tokyo 2020 is our best chance at winning an Olympic medal,” he said.
Mandeep Singh, who was awarded the Dhanraj Pillay Forward of the Year for 2019 by Hockey India, was elated on receiving the honour from the Indian hockey legend himself.
“I have never won an award at the Hockey India Annual Awards but always wished to receive one. I have idolised Dhanraj Pillay all my life and it felt truly special to receive the award from him,” admitted Mandeep Singh.
A year to remember for Indian hockey
The past year was a memorable one for both the men’s and women’s Indian hockey team as they both qualified for the 2020 Olympics.
The Olympic year began well for the men’s team, as they overcame the challenge of the top three teams in world hockey in the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia in their debut season in the FIH Pro League and are sitting pretty in fourth place with 10 points with two games in hand over the second-placed Australians.
Speaking about the team's upcoming matches in the FIH Hockey Pro League, Vivek Sagar said, "Our training is focused on building our performance and remain consistent in the FIH Hockey Pro League. The training is going on as usual in SAI, Bengaluru where the focus is on fitness and better success rate of circle penetrations.”
The men’s team also rose to a best-ever fourth in the FIH world rankings courtesy their strong performances and the hopes of a medal at the 2020 Olympics may finally be realized come July.
How many Olympic gold medals have the Indian men's hockey team won?
The Indian hockey men’s team have won eight Olympic gold medals, winning six consecutive gold medals between 1928 and 1956. Since then, the Indian hockey men’s team has won two more gold medals, at the Tokyo Games in 1964 with the last one coming at the Moscow Games in 1980.