24 July, Bengaluaru
The Indian men’s hockey team departed for Madrid in the early hours of Sunday where they will play two friendly matches against Spain before heading for the Rio Olympics.
“It’s heartening to see the kind of support we are getting ahead of the Olympics. This will only motivate us to do better,” said captain P.R. Sreejesh, who successfully led the Indian team to a historic Silver medal at the Champions Trophy.
“We hope to gain some match practice in Madrid. We leave for Rio on July 29 from Madrid. The boys are upbeat, well prepared and eager to start the tournament.” he added.
The Indian team underwent a grueling 10-day national camp here, where the focus was on getting the finer details right.
“The team is eager and ready to challenge ourselves. In the lead-up to the Olympics, we have shown some really good performances. It shows the ability of this team against the top sides in the world. Now the idea is to show and prove that it was not a one-off,” chief coach Roelant Oltmans stated ahead of the team’s departure.
“We still have to show that we can repeat such a performance in every match at the Olympic Games. Our challenge is to do our best every day in Brazil. If we’re able to do so we stand a good chance of a medal,” he said
On Saturday, the players were given a grand send off by Hockey India at the Lalit Hotel here. The lunch was hosted by Hockey India CEO Elena Norman along with Hockey Karnataka chief S.V.S. Subramanya Gupta and Hockey Bengaluru general secretary Kannan Krishnamurthy.
“Every match in Rio will be crucial. Every team will play to win, be it Ireland, Canada or Holland. We can’t take anyone lightly. We have our strategy for each team. These are our well-guarded secrets, of course. But we have got a basic structure on the field. For every team and players, we will tackle that with our strategy.” Sreejesh said.