The Veil of patriotism will cover the whole nation, uniting north with south and east with the west when the Prestigious quadrennial Olympic games will be held in Tokyo this year. Lately, India has won only a handful of medals at the Olympics. However, this time India has numerous medal hopes, and one such hope is the Indian national hockey team.
Hockey has always been an integral part of Indian sports culture. It gave us one of the most talented sportspersons of the country, Dhyan Chand (The magician). The time-lapse of (1926-1956) 28 years marks the golden era in Indian hockey. In total, India has had won 11 medals (eight gold, two silver, and one bronze) in hockey at Olympics. However, India won its last medal (gold medal) in 1980, and since then, the performance of the team has deteriorated with each passing decade. The blues didn't even make it to the top 4 after 1980. In 2008, for the first time, India failed to qualify for the Olympics.
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After a tumultuous period, the Indian Hockey team is on its way to climb back the Achille hill. The team has revamped lately. The veteran captain and midfielder Sardara Singh announced his retirement from the sports after an illustrious career of 12 years. Consequences of bad results Manpreet Singh was handed the armband in 2017. Under his leadership, India won the 2017 Asia Cup by beating Malaysia in the finals and also begged 3rd position in the 2017 Men's world league finals. Although Indians failed to carry forward the momentum and blues started the disastrous year with 5th, and 4th place finishes in Azlan Shah Cup and Commonwealth games, respectively. Adding to it, Malaysia got its revenue of 2017 defeat by beating India in the Asia Cup semifinals. The only positive thing for India in 2018 was the joint first-place finish with Pakistan (match forfeited due to rain) in Asian Champions Trophy.
Consequences of enduring bad results and exit from World Cup hockey India sacked Harendra Singh in 2018. After this, India went on to lose in the finals of the 2019 Azlan Shah Cup under interim coach Chris Ciriello. After scrutinizing different names, Graham Ried was appointed the head coach of the Indian team in 2019. The Australian formerly managed kookaburras and won numerous titles.
India went to Australia for their first tour under Ried and lost both the matches against the mighty Australian. Gharam noted lapse and faults in the team and made the requisite alteration in the team. One of the biggest problems of the team was their routine habit of conceding late goals. They lost to Netherland by 1-2 goals in World Cup quarterfinals after conceding in the last quarter and most recently lost the 2019 Azlan shah cup finals despite dominating the game. South Korea scored the equalizer in 59th minute and won in the shootout. Right after returning from Australia, Ried started working on it and also focused on the physical and mental conditioning of the players. While physicality was India's priority, Ried made sure mentality remain in par with physicality because mental fitness ensures quick and correct decisions in pressure situations. His helping hand Chris Ciriello analyzed every thin detail of the team. The result of the arduous work was finally derived after India qualified for the Olympics and trashed Belgium and Spain at their soil.
In an interview, Indian Captain Mandeep Singh praises coach for his friendly and ambivalent approach and credits Ried simplistic approach for ennobling performances. Other than this, the Australian is also focusing on mending the attacking department, which has lost its spark recently.
The impact of Ried's vast experience is visible and yielding positive results for the team. Till now, India has played 27 matches under Ried, winning 21, losing six, and drawn just one. In 2020, India has beaten Netherland twice, and the too after trailing by 1-3 in the second match, which India won in the shootout. Apart from this, Blues have also beaten heavyweights Belgium and Australia. Till now, India has successfully implemented the plan, and if they continue to do, then India can break the vicious cycle of medal drought in this Olympics.
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