Chance to be part of the story behind the team, says Indian goalkeeper Sreejesh
Coming in his third, and possibly last, Olympics in a row, veteran Indian hockey team goaltender PR Sreejesh says he has “made a lot of sacrifices” and wants them to count at all costs. Tokyo.
In the next Olympic Games from July 23, India, eight times champion, will try to break its spell of podium of more than four decades at the Games.
Since making his senior team debut in 2006, Sreejesh had only one dream in mind: to become an Olympic medalist.
On a personal level, the 35-year-old, considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world and a former Indian captain, said it was mentally difficult for him to stay away from his family for so long in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. .
“When you make these kinds of sacrifices, I always try to put a question mark after that, like why do I stay away from my kids, my family? But I know the answer.
“We have a very good history in hockey and when I look back on my own career I know I have a lot of FIH medals, I have medals in almost every tournament but not one in the World Cup or at the Games Olympics, ”Sreejesh told PTI. in an interview.
“This may be my last Olympics, so for me it’s about what more I can accomplish as an athlete, what can I get from these Olympics? It can only be a medal. It’s a dream and it helps me sacrifice everything.
“That’s what gives me extra energy. This is what helps us wake up from our bed every morning and work hard. It is a dream that I have been living for 15 years and I am ready to do so for the next 15 years, ”he added.
After the Tokyo Games were postponed for a year due to the pandemic, the Indian team was confined to the four walls of the SAI center in Bengaluru.
The last of the country’s eight gold medals at the 1980 Moscow Games.
“It’s an opportunity for us to be part of Indian hockey history, to be on the Olympic medalist roster and that’s what helps me focus only on my game,” Sreejesh said before. to leave for Tokyo.
The Olympics are being held under extraordinary circumstances with no spectators allowed due to the pandemic, but Sreejesh said strict protocols in the Japanese capital shouldn’t be a problem for the country’s hockey teams.
“For a year and a half, we have been living in the same circumstances and these will continue in Tokyo. If you are in the SAI center in Bengaluru, you are not allowed to go out, you are now allowed to meet people living outside the center.
“We only go from our hostel rooms to the training grounds. This is exactly what we are going to meet in Tokyo.
“There will be a lot of travel restrictions, a lot of restrictions on going out and meeting people. So it’s good for us because physically and mentally we are already prepared for it, ”he said.
The goalkeeper, however, said he would miss the crowd in the stands.
“The public gives us extra energy, they play the role of the 12th man on the team. This support gives us an extra boost to win games and that’s what we’re going to miss in Tokyo.
“But we are more focused on our game rather than worrying about external factors that are beyond our control,” said Sreejesh.
“It’s good that the distractions aren’t there. “
Having participated in two previous Summer Games, Sreejesh is one of the most experienced players on the Indian team.
Asked about his role in the team, the gangly custodian from Kerala said: “It is important for me to know how to use this experience and make the situation positive for me and for the team.
“My role is simply to share my experiences with the younger members of the team. It’s like the way parents guide their children or a teacher guides their students, ”he said.
“I tell kids to be realistic, what the Olympics mean to an athlete and how different the pressure is going to be. What kind of things are you going to face and how to deal with negative thoughts and turn them into positive waves.
Being the only goalkeeper on the team, Sreejesh understands the responsibility that weighs on his shoulders.
“In the previous Olympics, I was also the only goalie. When you are on the pitch you just have to give your best, it doesn’t matter if you are the only goalkeeper or not, ”he said.
“It’s not extra pressure for me, it’s an opportunity where I have to be 100% fit and ready for any game.
“Understanding and communicating between the defense and the goalkeeper in a match situation is the most important aspect and you have to focus on that,” he added.