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"Winning the Gold in Olympics is the biggest title a player can achieve" - Oliver Korn Interview

At 28, Oliver Korn, the 2 time Olympic Gold medallist for Germany (Beijing 2008, London 2012), is one of the most decorated players in the game currently. An enforcing midfielder, the German recently signed up for the inaugural Hockey India League. He has scored 26 goals for Germany in 130 matches and has been part of the teams which won FIH Champions Trophy (2007) were 2nd best in FIH Champions Trophy (2009) and FIH World Cup (2010). He was in conversation with Sportskeeda recently. Here are the excerpts from the interview:

Two back to back Gold medals in the Olympics, how does it feel to win biggest hockey tournament twice in a row?

Winning one Gold medal in the Olympics is a big feat, but winning it twice is absolutely amazing. Winning the Gold medal in the Olympics is the biggest title a player can achieve in his life and I am really proud of having won it twice. After three wonderful weeks in London, it took us a while to realise that we did it again.

This time around, you were not the favourites to win the Gold as many backed Australia, so how did you make it possible?

Australia could have been the favourites among hockey fans to win the Gold in the London 2012 but we knew that we have a strong and experienced team and the belief that we could beat anyone to win the Gold. No doubt, the teams like Australia and Netherlands give you tough challenge, so it was a possibility that we could lose against them but it was our focus that got us through. The coach had drilled the winning attitude among us along with concentration and with a bit of luck, we were able to beat the top teams and win Gold. Also, the team that played in Olympics was younger when compared to other teams in the tournament.

What was so special about this team?

The teams that played in Beijing Olympics and London Olympics were totally different. Although the team that played in London was very young in age but we had many experienced and talented players. The main reason of our success was our focus.

We took one game at a time and focused really hard on it. And it was not just the players, the supporting staff (coaches and physiotherapist) was also focused on our target and this strategy paid dividends and rest is history.

Going on a personal level, how did you get hooked with hockey?

My grandfather was the one who brought hockey in the family. I started really young, at the age of 5 and it was not hockey but football. I used to attend training sessions over there before my mother’s friend took me for a hockey training session at Düsseldorfer Hockey Club. One hockey training session, and I never went to soccer training again. The love with hockey continued since that day. Apart from playing, I train a kid’s team of my new club, Club de Campo twice a week before we train ourselves.

Who was your mentor who helped you reach the level you are at today?

My former coach in Düsseldorf, Volker Fried (captain of the 1992 gold team of Germany) had a great influence on my career. I worked with him for 10 years and he helped me a lot in becoming the player that I am today.

So, what is hockey like in Germany; the professionalism, domestic structure, league structure, etc?

There are 12 teams in the German “Hockeyliga”. The teams come from cities all over the country (Hamburg, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Mannheim, etc.). Every team has 22 games and after this round, the top four teams make it to the Final Four with semifinal and final to follow.

Unfortunately, there are not many people watching the games. This (attendance at stadiums) is much better in India.

How was your experience in playing in EHL, Europe’s biggest hockey competition?

Playing against the best teams in Europe, with the best players and a lot of spectators, is a always a great challenge and a lot of fun. Winning the EHL with Uhlenhorster Hockey Club last year was one of the best things I ever achieved in hockey. In search of a new challenge, I moved to Club de Campo where the first season was a bit difficult and we struggled a bit. It turned around after a great win Uhlenhorst Mülheim and we were very happy to go through to KO16.

What is the next target of Oliver Korn?

On the club level, the first target is to play a great season with Club de Campo in the Spanish league and EHL. With the German national team, first target is upcoming Champions Trophy. We would like to beat Australia and break their record of winning back to back in Champions Trophy. With a young team, we really want to perform well and win in Melbourne. We hope to take our Olympics form in the Champions Trophy and win the tournament.

Your favourite hockey player, both past and current and what you learnt from them?

Christoph Eimer is the best midfielder I have ever played with. He always made tough things look very simple and is one of the most intelligent players hockey has ever produced. From current players, I would say Jamie Dwyer. It is always a pleasure to watch him when he’s on the field.

Let’s shift some focus towards India. India was once a major powerhouse in hockey but today the game is in a very bad condition. What could be the reason according to you?

I think India has got really good players and despite the scoreline, at the end, it’s never easy to beat the Indian team. The match we played against India in the Olympics was really a tough one. I guess the main problem with the Indian team is their consistency. At the moment, they are unable to manage to play 7 good games during a major tournament.

You have played against India, what are the strong and weak points of the Indian team?

India’s attacking play is well known all over the world and it is very difficult to defend against them. India has many skilled players and you have to be very concentrated to keep them from scoring. On the other hand, I think their defense is not as good as their offense. With a bit more focus on defense, the Indian team can become a real force in world hockey.

Also, you have joined Hockey India League, what are your expectations from this tournament?

I am expecting huge crowds in the stadium. We do not get many fans in Germany. Hockey in India is much bigger than in Germany and I always love playing in front of large crowds. It’s great that Hockey India is organising such a great tournament that will help us showcase our talent in front of millions of Indian hockey fans.

What does India require to climb back to the top and compete against Germany and Australia?

Instead of changing their style of play and following others’, they should definitely keep playing their own style of hockey. Also, they should try to be more consistent during a tournament.

What advice would you like to give to the young and upcoming hockey players?

Always keep believing in your dreams. Work hard and enjoy what you are doing.

Any message for the fans?

The hockey fans in India are amazing!! I am really excited to play in front of huge, enthusiastic crowd.

Can’t wait for the start of HIL in January. See you guys in India!

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