Having achieved the goal of a podium finish at the recently-concluded Champions Trophy in London, the Indian men’s hockey team chief coach Roelant Oltmans has now set his eyes on his next big target — the Rio Olympics.
The silver medal winning feat last month in London was India’s best-ever performance in the Champions Trophy, surpassing the bronze medal finish in the 1982 edition of the tournament.
“Our aim was always to win a medal at the Champions Trophy. We have achieved that. It is on the backburner now. We have to look ahead and focus on the Olympics,” said Oltmans after arriving here following a successful tour.
The Indian hockey team returned home on Tuesday after a strong showing at the six-nation Invitational tournament in Valencia and a silver medal finish in the Champions Trophy, which has propelled it to No. 5 spot in the world rankings.
“The team deserves a much-needed break after all the hard work, and then, very soon, it will be back to the grind as we sharpen up for the all-important Olympic Games,” Oltmans said.
India finished fifth in the six-nations Invitational Tournament in Valencia after drawing 1-1 against hosts Spain in their final match.
The Men in Blue played in Olympic format with a 16-member squad at the six-nations tournament. The 16-member team, presents its own new set of challenges as reduced bench strength meant longer time spent on the pitch for players with lesser time for recovery off the pitch.
Fielding an experimental team, which featured a lot of young faces making their debut in the Champions Trophy, India scored 10 goals in the tournament. The defence was the key factor in their march to the final as they conceded the second least goals in the tournament (11) behind eventual champions Australia.
Harmanpreet Singh was named the best upcoming player of the tournament.
“This was a great opportunity for me to play with the senior team and to learn so much from them. Playing the 16-member Olympic format was challenging but also helped us gauge what we learnt at the training. It ensured we are physically prepared for all scenarios, and that we are in peak shape as a unit ahead of the Olympics,” Harmanpreet said.
Goalkeeper P R Sreejesh, who captained the side in the Champions Trophy, is proud of the achievement and said the team is now completely focussed on producing a good show at Rio de Janeiro.
“We are proud of our achievement. We are also grateful and overwhelmed by the support we have received from home. After a long tour, now we are focussed on the Rio Games. We want to ensure a strong showing in Rio so that we can make our supporters proud. We will have a few days break to rejuvenate ourselves before we resume the camp at SAI Bengaluru and get ready for Rio,” Sreejesh said.