Hardik Singh says Indian men “110 percent” ready to win Paris Olympics gold, Sift Kaur Samra mentions ‘team spirit’ among Indian shooters

With five months to go until the Paris Games, the anticipation regarding the medal prospects in these two disciplines is palpable.

Published : Feb 28, 2024 19:34 IST , CHANDIGARH - 6 MINS READ

Hardik Singh and Sift Kaur Samra have both gone through opposite journeys in their respective sports.
Hardik Singh and Sift Kaur Samra have both gone through opposite journeys in their respective sports. | Photo Credit: R.V. MOORTHY

Hardik Singh and Sift Kaur Samra have both gone through opposite journeys in their respective sports. | Photo Credit: R.V. MOORTHY

Hockey and shooting are the two sports where India has achieved the most success in the Olympics. With five months to go until the Paris Games, the anticipation regarding the medal prospects in these two disciplines is palpable.

“The team is 110 percent ready to win gold,” said Hardik Singh, midfielder and vice-captain of the Indian men’s hockey team, during the discussion on ‘Eyeing the Paris Gold’ as part of Sportstar’s ‘Focus Punjab’ Sports Conclave in Chandigarh on Wednesday.

Indian men grabbed the quota for Paris by winning the Asian Games crown in Hangzhou. Hardik, who was named the 2023 FIH Player of the Year, spoke about the importance of the continental event. “When we talk about Asian Games in hockey, our main target is gold medal and Olympic qualification. A lot of times, people say that Asian Games hockey is easy, but they forget that since the sport made its debut at Asiad, Indian men have won only four golds. It is a very hectic tournament for us, but our main target was to win gold and qualify for the Olympics,” said the 25-year-old.

However, Hardik added, “We do have the advantage of time as many European nations or Australia have to take part in qualifiers, but as our coach says, the Olympic cycle is not ‘a single day’, it is ‘everyday.’”

Unlike hockey, earning a quota in shooting does not automatically guarantee a place at the Olympics since the athletes also need to show consistency in multiple national selection trials. Sift Kaur Samra, who finished fifth at the World Championships in Baku last year to win a quota in the women’s 50m rifle three-position event, however, feels that the selection does not make the Indian shooters see each other as rivals.

“We’re friends. When we are in the lane, we are competitors, but after that, everyone congratulates the person who does well. If someone goes through a bad day, everyone discusses what went wrong and what could be done better. It is an individual sport, but there is also a team spirit where we all want to go together and everyone can win a medal. Because two people are selected, we can win that gold,” said Sift, who also grabbed Asian Games gold in the same event in Hangzhou with a world record score.

Contrasting journeys

Hardik and Sift have both gone through opposite journeys in their respective sports.

Hardik comes from a sporting family and knows all that comes along with it. “There are a lot of expectations when you are from a hockey family, but thanks to my parents, that pressure never got to me. I stayed focused on hockey only. I focused on my schedule at the hostel. I was a ball boy in the Hockey India League in 2015 in Mohali. In 2018, I was selected for the national team. It is a sport where an individual name does not matter. It is a team sport, and when you play for a team, you have to put your team first. If there is a situation where you have to sacrifice yourself, you have to do that,” he said.

On the other hand, Sift became a shooter by accident. She had already cleared the NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) and got admission to a medical college. However, the performance at the Nationals shortly after that changed her mind. “I also realised that if we play without tension, we will perform well,” she said.

Different pressures and expectations

The Indian men’s hockey team won an Olympic medal—a bronze—after 41 years in Tokyo. Hardik, a member of that squad, feels that experience will help the team this time in Paris. “We still don’t have gold. That’s our team’s main target. It’s all about taking the positives along with you while leaving out the negatives. We have an advantage because we played a semifinal after 40 years,and the pressure of a semifinal is on another level. Now, we know how to handle the pressure of that match and reach the final. We also have a very experienced side compared to last time where nine of us made our Olympic debut. This time, probably there are 10-11 of us who have already played at the Olympics, the semifinal and the bronze medal match and finishing on the podium,” he said.

Hardik also spoke about the importance of match awareness and the change the team has experienced under coach Craig Fulton, who replaced Graham Reid last year. “It is all about game intelligence. The more you play, the more experience you get. When you play a Top 6 team, you need the confidence to replicate whatever you have learnt in training to shoot during the match. Ever since we got a new coach, Craig Fulton, we have started playing a lot of tactical hockey. We analyse how our opponents drag flick or perform the tackles. Modern hockey is very different. A single player cannot go and win the match by scoring goals. It is about teamwork,” he said.

Indian shooting witnessed its biggest moment when Abhinav Bindra clinched gold in the 10m air rifle event in Beijing in 2008. However, there have been no medals from shooting in the last two editions. Sift, however, does not feel that brings extra pressure on the current crop. “Everyone is young, and everyone wants to perform well. Shooters did an excellent job at the Asian Games, and everyone has family support. Unlike before, we also have enough equipment. I don’t think we have pressure. Everyone knows they have to work on their technique, and we will do it. Pressure shows that we are humans, but we also know how to control it,” she said.

Sift also spoke about mental training, something that became highly important for Indian shooters since Bindra had a mental trainer in Dr. Amit Bhattacharjee as a significant part of his journey. “Everyone has a different style (to handle pressure). For me, if there are thoughts coming, I allow them. I know that I am playing a match, and I have to focus on what I have practised. Many times, you think that you might miss the shot, but here is when you have to be mentally strong and come back to the present. We are working on focusing on every single shot rather than thinking about the 60-shot match. It is difficult, but we are trying,” she said in front of the crowd, which also had Bhattacharjee.

Both Hardik and Sift, who are winners of the Sportstar Aces 2024 Sportsman of the Year (Team Sports) and Sportswoman of the Year (Individual Sport) respectively, received their trophies at the end of the discussion.

The conclave was held in association with Hero Motocorp, Indian Oil, Punjab Government, Great Sports Tech, KPMG, and NewsX.

Sign in to unlock all user benefits
  • Get notified on top games and events
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign up / manage to our newsletters with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early bird access to discounts & offers to our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment