India hockey skipper Harmanpreet: There is still room for improvement ahead of Paris 2024 Olympics

Indian men’s hockey captain Harmanpreet Singh aims for gold at Paris Olympics, focusing on fine-tuning preparations during Australia tour.

Published : Mar 14, 2024 20:20 IST , New Delhi - 3 MINS READ

Indian hockey team captain Harmanpreet Singh.
Indian hockey team captain Harmanpreet Singh. | Photo Credit: BISWARANJAN ROUT

Indian hockey team captain Harmanpreet Singh. | Photo Credit: BISWARANJAN ROUT

Indian men’s hockey skipper Harmanpreet Singh feels there is still room for improvement as his team chases the coveted gold at Paris Olympics and said the players will look to fine-tune their final preparations during next month’s Australia tour.

Eight-time champions India won its last gold medal in 1980 Moscow Olympics. The Indians, however, managed to break the podium jinx in last Tokyo Games, where they won a bronze.

“If we look at the performance of the team it is a good sign, we aren’t overconfident but we are fighting against all the top sides. The confidence of the team is on a high,” Harmanpreet told PTI.

“The goal is gold medal, there is no second thoughts about it. No more target.” Since emerging victorious in the Asian Champions Trophy last year, India went on to win the Asian Games and directly qualify for the Paris Olympics while also putting up a good show in the home leg of the FIH Pro League. India is currently placed third in the FIH Pro League standings with 15 points from eight games.

“It was a positive campaign. All matches in Pro League are tough, you get to play against the best teams of the world. Our performance has been good. If you talk about our matches against Australia and Netherlands, we played really well,” he said.

“We learnt a lot, the team has improved a lot. We gained in confidence. Overall it was a good performance.” Asked about areas of improvement, the skipper said: “There are only two areas of improvement. How you defend in your ‘D’ and how you attack. We have to keep in mind that we can’t be successful every time.

READ | Mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton to help Indian men’s hockey team in Paris Olympics

“We just have to keep in mind that when opponents come inside our ‘D’, not to concede penalty corners and when we are inside their ‘D’ to create more opportunities. In Pro League we have done a lot of good things but still there is room for improvement.

“All teams are playing with their best sides in Pro League. It is important for us to play against them, analyse and play smartly before Olympics. It’s a good opportunity for us to get such good matches before Olympics.” India is scheduled to tour Australia from April 2 to 15 for a five-Test series in Perth and Harmanpreet knows the significance of the tour.

“The Australia tour is very important for us. We will get a chance to play five tough games against a high quality side like Australia before the Olympics,” he said.

“Over that, the match schedule has been planned like the Olympics, where we play a match and then a rest before returning for back-to-back matches.” Renowned South African mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton, who played a role in India winning the 2011 Cricket World Cup, will be a part of the support staff of the country’s men’s hockey team in Paris.

He was also there when the team won gold medals at the recent Asian Champions Trophy and Asian Games.

“It’s very helpful for us. It is very important to zoom in and zoom out and only a mental coach can do that. Every player struggles mentally, so whatever activity, meetings he is doing with us is really positive. Our mind gets refreshed,” Harmanpreet said.

“Since the time he joined us, the team is performing very well, we have made a lot of improvement mentally.”

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