Good start vital to team's success in Rio: Sreejesh

India is scheduled to play Ireland in its opening match of the Olympics. "Our focus will be to take one match at a time. The key is to win as many matches in the pool stage to be in a good position amongst the top four teams to play in the quarterfinal," Sreejesh said.

Sreejesh said the players are focused on fine tuning their game for Rio Olympics, in the camp held at SAI Centre in Bengaluru.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Indian men’s hockey team goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh feels a good start in the Rio Olympics is pivotal to the success of the eight-time champion in the quadrennial event.

India is scheduled to play Ireland in its opening match of the Olympics. “Our focus will be to take one match at a time. The key is to win as many matches in the pool stage to be in a good position amongst the top four teams to play in the quarterfinal,” Sreejesh said.

“Playing Ireland in the first match will be tough as we haven’t played against them since the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

However, the way we are preparing, I am optimistic we will be in top shape for Rio,” says the 29-year-old goalkeeper who made his international debut with the senior men’s team in 2006 at the South Asian Games in Colombo.

Talking about the team’s preparations, Sreejesh said the players are focused on fine tuning their game in the camp, held at SAI Centre in Bengaluru.

“Earlier, we would make visible mistakes but now that has been rectified and we have been paying a lot of attention to details, how to create situations, making set pieces and also trying out new tactics that we will try in the following tournaments,” he says further adding that the team has been sweating it out in the sweltering conditions in Bengaluru where the temperature has touched 39.5 degrees in the past week, a record high since 1931.

“We train twice everyday and the goalkeepers clock three sessions under the tutelage of Dave (Staniforth). We go in early before the morning session along with penalty corner specialists and train with them. We have psychology sessions thrice a week at noon and regular training in the evening. We are giving it our all,” he said.

Being part of squad during the London Olympics where India finished a lowly 12th, Sreejesh said, “We know what it means to do well in the Olympics. Winning a medal is a dream.

We tell the juniors what it’s like being in the Olympics and we can’t let ourselves get distracted by the presence of elite athletes or be overwhelmed by meeting a sporting icon in the dining room. It is about our performance and that should be our focus.”

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