Rupinder Pal Singh: Unity and belief among team members helped us clinch Olympic bronze

Recently retired Rupinder Pal Singh says the Indian men's hockey team was determined to win a medal in Tokyo Olympics.

Rupinder Pal Singh at the launch of PUMA store in Gurugram on Thursday.   -  SANDEEP SAXENA

Rupinder Pal Singh finished his India career of 11 years on a high in Tokyo, clinching the team’s first medal since 1980. The drag-flicker has two Asian Games medals in his kitty as well as a silver in the Commonwealth Games, but the Olympic medal he says was a “dream come true” that made his days participating in Tokyo 2020 some of the best of his life.

Rupinder reflects on India’s Olympic high and more in a short interaction at a promotional event here.

On your post on Twitter while announcing your retirement, you said the days in Tokyo were the best of your life. Can you elaborate on what made the event so special? 

When I started playing hockey, it was a dream to win a medal in the Olympics. We’re so grateful to get the chance. That’s why I wrote in my post on Twitter, that they were some of my best days of my life. It’s not easy; lots of people dream about winning a medal in the Olympics, going to the Olympics. They go and come back but are not able to win the medal.

READ: Hockey India names 30 members for senior men's national camp

Which other moment in our career would you place just below it? 

After that, Asian Games 2014 gold medal. Winning a medal in the World Cup is obviously prestigious; to be honest I don’t have it. But winning the Asian Games gold medal is a big deal.

Were there signs that the team could do something special this time? 

We had been talking about it, that we have to win a medal. We didn’t just want to go there to participate. It was our aim to win a medal. The team had belief that it can do it. The team had unity and belief. If everyone believes in himself and is confident it makes a lot of difference. It’s all about the mindset. We believed we could bounce back even after defeats. There was a lot of togetherness in the team.

A brief word about the role of the coach, Graham Reid? 

The coach kept the team together. Even after we lost to Australia 7-2, he didn’t say a word, because he knew losing is part of the game. If even one player is demoralised, if affects the team. After the loss, we spoke to ourselves to reassure us that this game won’t determine whether we play the final.

[Having said that] every coach has a different style and adopts different strategies. Every coach had a role to play in our bronze-medal win. The contribution of all the 33 members of the squad won us the medal.

Who were some of the coaches who most shaped your game in our career? 

The coach at my academy, Jasbir Singh, and when I started drag-flicking, Jugrag Singh ji.

What are your future plans? 

I will be playing for clubs for the next two-three years.

Finally, a word about your sponsor, PUMA.  

I like the PUMA brand. I don’t think any other sports brand supports as many athletes in India. I’m liking the vibes of its new store.

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