Golden Year for Indian Men’s Hockey

New Delhi, Dec 31 (UNI) The year 2023 didn’t begin as planned for the Indian Men’s Hockey Team following a disappointing outing at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela in January.

However, the Harmanpreet Singh-led side managed to turn things around with stellar performances in the Asian Champions Trophy Chennai 2023, and a historic Gold medal at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, ending a 9-year wait to stand on top of the podium.

“Looking back, it has been a remarkable year for us. I was not part of the team that won the Gold medal at the Asian Games in 2014 and it was always a dream to win the Asian Games. We trained the entire year with a singular aim to bag a direct qualification for the Paris Olympics and it feels surreal to have achieved this historic result,” expresses Captain Harmanpreet Singh.

In retrospect, Harmanpreet believes the World Cup debacle tested the team’s character.

“Bouncing back from a disappointing show in the World Cup was never easy. But we had to regroup and recover from this outing. I think looking back, the team has shown immense character and dignity to overcome the heartbreak of not doing well in the World Cup at home,” recalled Harmanpreet, who had a memorable year – etching his name in history for being one the highest goal scorers in FIH Hockey Pro League.

India returned to Odisha after the World Cup, with a bang, when they beat reigning world Champions Germany and higher ranked Australia in the FIH Hockey Pro League matches held in March. Though it was a mixed season for India in the Pro League, finishing in third place, Harmanpreet believes it set the pace for the team’s success in the continental championships.

“I think beating Germany at home during the Pro League and also doing well against Australia, in a way reinstated our confidence. Personally, for me, I felt like I had found my rhythm back in drag flick,” he said.

In August, India stamped their dominance in Asia by bagging the honours at the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Chennai 2023 – only weeks prior to the 19th Asian Games, bringing hockey fans much cheer and joy.

“I think the moment we beat Malaysia in the Final of the Asian Champions Trophy, the expectations that we will bag the Gold in the Asian Games went up not just for our fans but also within the team. But it was important for us to not get ahead of ourselves,” reckoned Harmanpreet.

September, India came up with one of their best campaigns in a major multi-discipline event. They were clinical in their performance, dominant in every game and played like a champion squad – leaving their opponents wanting in every match.

India beat Japan 5-1 in the Final to clinch the Gold, beat a resurgent Korea 5-3 in the Semi-Final, and remained unbeaten in the Pool stage with thumping victories against Uzbekistan (16-0), Singapore (16-1), Pakistan (10-2), Bangladesh (12-0) and Japan (4-2).

“As a team, we knew that winning the Asian Games would be ideal for our preparations to change the colour of the medal in the Paris Olympics. It has given us almost a year to prepare and be our best. Some of them asked if we would get complacent and satisfied after winning Asian Games Gold, if anything, it has only made us more eager and determined to stand on the podium again in Paris,” Harmanpreet signed off.

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