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Rio Olympics 2016: Dhanraj Pillay optimistic about India's podium chances after strong Champions Trophy show

Tanuj Kar
865   //    22 Jun 2016, 21:03 IST
Dhanraj Pillay
Dhanraj Pillay in action in the 2004 Athens Olympics

Joining the bandwagon of sporting greats to express their admiration for Indian hockey’s much-awaited ‘rise from the ashes’ off late is yesteryears’ skipper Dhanraj Pillay.

Praising the young national side for its remarkable showing that fetched India their best ever Champions Trophy finish, the former captain shared his views on India’s chances at the upcoming Rio Olympics 2016.

The historic silver medal has wiped away any doubt that might have existed regarding the ability of this Indian team to take on the present-day superpowers at the highest level.

Without veterans like the solid Sardar Singh to lead and Ramandeep Singh up front to score for them, a refreshingly fit Indian unit challenged the world's 'best of the best' teams on British soil and earned an unprecedented 2nd-place. Looking back on his prime, Pillay confessed how he still regrets their failure to bring India the coveted Olympic medal throughout his extensive senior career.

Also Read: 5 standout performers for India at the 2016 Hockey Champions Trophy

As reported by Firstpost, Dhanraj provided some valuable insight on where the team can still outdo their current form so as to leave no stone unturned in Rio:

"It's in field goal scoring. You need to be very sharp at the goalmouth. Whatever opportunity you get, you need to convert it 100 percent. Don't take a chance and don't regret later as how Dhanraj Pillay is regretting. After playing in four Olympics, I still regret I could not win even one medal for my nation."

Applauding their gritty finale show against World No. 1 Australia that ended goalless after regulation time, Pillay also commented on how Roelant Oltmans’ men have improved their fitness levels to give competition to their international rivals in a heavily physical game like hockey:

“110 per cent I can say our fitness level has improved. Frankly, Indians could never keep pace with Australia. But in this tournament, I could see Australia were nowhere compared with India in terms of fitness or ball possession. We had 79 per cent possession in the last quarter. We also dominated all the quarters and overall I also could not give the sort of performance that these boys have given in recent times."

With little more than a month to go for the Summer Olympics, the erstwhile hockey star advised the Indian players to be extra-cautious in their consumption of medicines and like substances – since a raging disgraceful doping crisis has shaken the world of sports in the past few months.

Such words of encouragement coming from a leading ambassador of the game would work wonders for the adventurous national team heading into the Olympic Games.

Incidentally, the Maharashtra-born striker Dhanraj is the only player to have represented India in four Olympics (1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004), four World Cups (1990, 1994, 1998, and 2002), four Champions Trophies (1995, 1996, 2002, and 2003), and four Asian Games (1990, 1994, 1998, and 2002).

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