Games ahead of Rio will be crucial for us - Oltmans

India has started its month-long preparations for the 2016-17 season at the Sports Authority Of India (SAI) centre here, where it will undergo intensive practice sessions and try to attain a considerable momentum before the Olympics Games in August.

India men's hockey team coach Roelant Oltmans, along with captain Sardar Singh and vice captain P. R. Sreejesh.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

Indian men’s hockey team’s chief coach Roelant Oltmans today said that the stretch of 20 to 25 odd games which the team has before the Rio Olympics will be very crucial for its build up towards the Olympics.

India has started its month-long preparations for the 2016-17 season at the Sports Authority Of India (SAI) centre here, where it will undergo intensive practice sessions and try to attain a considerable momentum before the Olympics Games in August.

“Our preparations look good. We have a stretch of 20 to 25 odd games before the Olympics which will be very crucial for the team,” Oltmans said.

The Dutchman, who is also the High Performance Director of Hockey India, feels that the just-concluded Hockey India League has thrown into limelight quite a few talented youngsters.

“The Coal India Hockey India League has helped us tap some very talented young players, but for them to make it to the national team they have to be physically, mentally and technically adapt,” Oltmans said.

“We as a team need to improve on a few critical aspects and through this camp I hope to achieve the same with the players.”

Captain Sardar Singh said from here on each day is important for team India, which has won nine Olympic gold medals in the past.

“The training camp is a great place for the boys to get back into groove and gear up for the season ahead. We have just got 4 to 5 months left for the Rio Olympics and each training camp and tournament is important,” he said.

“The coach is working really hard with the team and each of us is taking initiative towards working on our individual goals and turns ourselves into a cohesive unit.”

A total of 33 probables are training at the camp organised as preparation for the Olympic Games, to be held in Rio from August 5 to 21.