Star men’s hockey team striker SV Sunil feels India are much better prepared this time around for the Olympics than four years ago in London and said playing Germany in the Champions Trophy will them in good stead against the reigning champions in the Rio Games.
India are clubbed along side defending champions Germany, European champions Netherlands, Pan-American Games champions Argentina, Ireland and Canada in Pool B in the Rio Olympics. And Sunil, who vies to be at his best against the mighty Germans, said the Champions Trophy will provide them much-needed knowledge about top teams, including Germany.
“They (Germany) are the best team in the world. It is my priority to do well against them in the Champions Trophy and at the Olympics. Playing them in the Champions Trophy will help us understand their game better ahead of the Olympics. We discussed Germany in our previous team meetings and we are aware of their stregth and weaknesses,” said Sunil.
Talking about eight-time champions India’s preparation for the Olympics, Sunil hoped for a much-better performance the team in Rio, unlike four years ago in London where they finished last among 12 teams.
“Last time, we paid more attention to fitness but this time, it is very different. We are paying attention to overall
development as a team and the training has a lot to do with discipline and team spirit which I think has helped us on the field and in understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” he said.
“The approach we have for the Olympics this time is far more systematic and I feel we are on the right track,” the
27-year-old striker from Coorg added.
Sunil was named as the vice-captain of the team for last month’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, where India finished runners-up.
Asked Sunil about the new responsibility, he said: “I don’t feel that the role of vice-captain brings any pressure to my game. Being part of the team for so long, I have learnt to handle pressure and that helps me stick to my natural game.
“Vice-captaincy for me is all about making the youngsters in the team understand their role and motivate them to play to their potential.”
Hailing from a poor family, Sunil said he is indebted to hockey for what he is today. “Coming from a poor family in Coorg, hockey has given me everything I need to lead a comfortable life. And when I play, I remember what the game has given me for the sacrifices I have made. I will do everything to bring glory for the country,” he said.
Since making his debut in the senior team nine years ago, Sunil has gained the reputation of being ‘the fastest man on the turf’, a fact which chief coach Roelant Oltmans too agrees. “He (Sunil) is an attacker and brings something
exceptional to the team. He understands our demands and he keeps questioning what we are doing in a positive way so that he can understand it and translate it to the younger players,” said Oltmans.
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