While the announcement didn’t come as a surprised, it did leave India hockey captains Manpreet Singh and Rani Rampal disappointed as the Tokyo Olympics were delayed by a year in wake of coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday. Also Read - Athletes Qualified For Tokyo 2020 Will Keep Their Places For 2021: Report
The tinge of disappointment is expected considering the fact that both men and women teams were undergoing intense training sessions and in light of improving performances in the past one year, confidence was sky-high. Also Read - Coronavirus: Tokyo Olympics Organisers Brace For Massive Additional Expenses After Delay
While the women team won competitions such as the FIH Series Finals and the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in front of the home crowd in November last year, their male counterparts made an impressive start to the year with fantastic outing in the FIH Hockey Pro League. Also Read - With Tokyo Olympics Postponed, Leander Paes Mulls Delaying Retirement
“We had just finished the day’s evening session when Graham Reid (head coach) informed us about the postponement of the Olympic Games,” Manpreet said. “Though, somewhere at the back of our minds we anticipated this could happen considering the impact Covid-19 has made across the globe, we had never let it affect our training or the intensity needed in every session.”
The Olympics were to get underway in July but have been postponed till next summer.
“I think the news is yet to sink in for us,” Manpreet said. “We were mentally gearing up for our first match on 25th July 2020, so the disappointment is surely there but it is important for us to now look at the positives. Over the past ten months, we have grown as a team under Reid and I believe we will only continue to build on our form under him in the next one year.”
“Our motivation has not been affected by this announcement. As a team, we will continue to remain committed to our goal of becoming a better side and bring back the glory days for hockey in India,” he added.
Rani echoed Manpreet’s views and is looking forward to the extended period of preparations as an opportunity to further improve their game.
“We were already in a meeting when head coach Sjoerd Marijne received the news and broke it to us on Tuesday evening. Personally, I was very disappointed because the team was in good rhythm to do well at the Tokyo Olympics. But if you see our team’s performance in the past two years in specific, we have grown from strength to strength, challenging every top team in the world. We are looking at this postponement as a positive to continue to work hard and take our game to the next level” Rani said.
She highlighted the importance of remaining focused despite the delay. “It is important for the team to remain focused and continue to keep up the intensity. This one year postponement also gives us more time with Analytical Coach Janneke Schopman who has been a fantastic addition to the support staff and her experience as an Olympic Gold Medallist is very inspiring for us. Both Sjoerd and Janneke’s combination is very effective and we are confident of moving up the ladder under their guidance,” she said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced complete lockdown of the country to fight the threat of coronavirus.
Manpreet urged Indian citizens to follow the instructions issued by the government. “On behalf of the entire team, I would urge all hockey fans to please follow the lockdown and stay safe. While you are indoor, try and do basic workouts to keep yourself fit. It’s important to stay healthy both mentally and physically,” the midfielder said.