Sandeep Singh is the key in deep defence and is the drag-flick specialist who played the quintessential role for Indian Hockey Team to qualify for London Olympics after a gap of 8 years. Tragedy struck him in 2006 when he was accidentally shot by a bullet in the train. However the world bows down to heroes like him who overcome every hurdle in life to achieve the greatness they were destined to achieve.
Sandeep Singh reveals his story in a chat with Sportskeeda:
- How confident is the team for the Olympics?
Everyone in the team is working hard and we will give our best in London. We are going to focus on one match at a time and if everything goes right, I am sure we can clinch the gold. We need everyone’s prayers and blessings.
- What are the differences in playing on the blue turf as compared to playing on the green one? How well has the team adapted to this change?
The main thing about the blue turf is that they are not uniform and chances of injuries are more while playing on them. Initially we did face some problems while playing on it, but now we are doing fine on it.
- From 5th-6th to Semi-finalists, your teammates have their own targets for Team India in Olympics. Realistically, what are the chances that India have according to you?
Well, everyone is entitled to their own views. In sports you never know. Everything comes down to how we perform on a particular day. Realistically speaking, we are a very capable side and everyone in the team knows their responsibility pretty well. I am sure that we are going to make a podium finish.
- What’s your prime role in the team – a specialist drag-flicker or a defender?
I am good at both (chuckles). Well, I play both the roles pretty well. I have worked on my drag-flicking skills tirelessly for almost ten years. I know my limitations as a defender and coaches Michael Nobbs and Dilip Tirkey have helped me a lot in improving my defence. I underwent special training to improve my footwork and speed.
- Michael Nobbs has admitted that Indians lacked fitness in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. Tell us about the training regime that’s being followed by the team to build up the fitness level.
Fitness was a concern earlier. But thanks to the high-altitude training, we have a improved a lot. Our team is much fitter now and we feel we are ready for the Olympics. The camp held in Pune was all about fitness. We combined training with gym, speed work and stamina building exercises.
- Apart from you and Ignace Tirkey, this is going to be the first Olympics for the rest of your teammates. Any word of advice/suggestions you’ve been imparting the first-timers?
Well, yes this is my second Olympics, as the last I played was in 2004. We got a pretty matured side this time so I really don’t think that they would really need me to advice them but still, all I have asked them is to be positive, keep faith and just play the best hockey they can ever play out there.
- That Olympic rings tattoo on your arm – what’s the story behind it?
I was in Canada for holidays and all my friends and cousins had tattoos. So I decided to get one for myself and since Olympics is something I have always dreamed about and is very close to my heart, what could have been better then the symbol itself. I am planning to get inked yet again.
- How much were you affected by the shooting incident? Do you draw inspiration from your miraculous recovery after the incident?
I struggled to return after being shot at on the train. 2006 was terrible. It was a life changing incident for me. However, I fought back as I am not a kind of person who would just sit back and whine or regret. I finally overcame the tragedy and paved back my way to life as well as the Indian Hockey Team. I consider this new life which God granted me as my rebirth. The incident has changed my perception towards life completely. I value everything more than I ever did before.
- You’ve signed up for the new Hockey India league recently. What’re your thoughts about the growing popularity of the WSH? Will an HI-run league be able to match that?
I can’t speak about it as of now as we have been asked not to.
- What do you think must be done to take Indian Hockey to the next level?
First of all, academies should be opened in every state which would provide good training at the grass root level. Corporates should try to invest more on the players and prize money should be increased. Hockey is our national game and yet we haven’t got much of recognition and so I think it’s high time to raise the level of the game. The current Indian players should also be sponsored and commercially exposed so that every citizen knows them by name and face.
- How are the warm up matches in Europe helping the team?
Oh, we are performing pretty well! Yesterday we won against South Africa by 6-5. All these wins are giving us a confidence boost for the mega event which is ahead of us. I didn’t play the match though as I fell sick but now I am fine and looking forward to the next matches.