Olympic gold medallist M M Somaya feels the Indian men’s hockey team produced one of the most “compact” performances to win its fourth gold medal at the recently-concluded Hangzhou Asian Games.
Somaya, who was the Indian contingent’s deputy chef de mission at Hangzhou, said it was mostly an unblemished performance from the Harmanpreet Singh-led side, who directly qualified for Paris Olympics by winning the gold.
“I think they (India) played outstanding in all the matches, barring a few lapses of concentration against Japan and Korea, but otherwise, overall, I think one of the most compact and sound performances we have seen,” said Somaya, a member of India’s 1980 Olympic gold medal winning team in Moscow.
With next year’s Paris ticket secured, the Indian team can focus on its preparations now.
“Now that the burden of qualifying is gone, they can concentrate on making a strong program up to Paris. So just because they’re not playing in the tournament for qualification doesn’t mean that they will be complacent. They can now engage in preparatory camps and tours with Paris in mind,” Somaya said.
The 64-year-old also lauded the women’s team, who bagged the bronze at the Asian Games but missed out on a direct ticket to Paris.
“The women also played very well, barring that game against China in the first half where they were a little overwhelmed. And then in the second half they opened up, but it was too late. Overall, it was an excellent performances from both the teams.” Somaya also had words of appreciation for the Odisha government for its overwhelming support to Indian hockey.
“Odisha have stood out because of their support for hockey, I don’t remember any other sport where a state has supported the national team. It’s always been a corporate, but in this case the state itself has supported the national team, which is a big thing.”
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