Bhubaneswar, 06 November 2019: With the year coming to a close, it has been a positive one for Indian Men's Hockey team's drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh, who made a comeback to the side when he took part in the team's Tour of Belgium and then the crucial FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers Odisha held in November. With a return of two goals and some brilliant defending, the drag-flicker returned to the side with some impressive performances, and helped his team qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
"I think 2018 was a relatively tough year for me because I was not getting into the side, and missed some major tournaments. It was a really difficult experience but these tough phases transform you into a better player, and a wiser human being. I realized that I needed to work on some areas after I had sustained a major injury, but I am really grateful to be ending 2019 with a very positive mindset, and looking forward to achieving great things with this bunch of players in the next 7-8 months," said the 29-year-old.
"It was a journey of constant hard work on the ground and in the gym, and I am really pleased with the way I have been able to make a comeback. The most important thing for me was to make sure that I contribute to the team performing to the best of our abilities, and I think we are gradually getting to a level which can help us compete for the top prizes. It is an important year in the lives of a lot of players in the world because we have the Olympic Games this upcoming year, and I am really looking forward to making my country proud," added the drag-flicker.
Currently in Bhubaneswar for the Indian Men's Hockey Team's Training and Conditioning Camp, Rupinder says that the focus on the current camp has been on individual improvements rather than plotting out strategies for the FIH Hockey Pro League or Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. "We had these four weeks of camp to focus on our individual development, improvement and growth. The coaching staff has been putting in all the hard work to make sure that all the 34 players in the National Camp are working on specific areas of concern for each player - starting from the basics of the game. It is a great process because this is the only time we get to focus on individual players and improving skills, in the lead up to the Olympics. The next camp will be aimed at getting ready for the FIH Hockey Pro League, and then we will focus on strategies to face Netherlands," said Rupinder.
Having made his debut in 2008, Rupinder was also a part of the Indian side that finished 8th at the Rio Olympics 2016, and the 29-year-old recalled the experience, "It was a great feeling to have finally represented the country at the Olympic Games. It had always been my dream to play at the Olympics, and the feeling I got playing in that atmosphere was just surreal. It is true that we did not have the best of tournaments, but that experience is something that can help us next year in Tokyo. We have improved a lot in these four years, and I believe that our team is one of the top teams in the world right now," said the Indian who hails from Faridkot, Punjab.
The ongoing Training and Conditioning Camp of the Indian Men's Hockey team will conclude in Bhubaneswar this Sunday, after which the team will go on a three-week break before joining the National Camp back at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium from 29th December 2019 onwards to prepare for their FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 campaign.