Updated: July 6, 2021 1:17:43 pm
MITHAPUR LAD and captain of the Indian hockey team Manpreet Singh (29) has been named India’s flag bearer alongwith London Olympics bronze medallist boxer Mary Kom for the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, to be held later this month. Singh, who has become the first Indian hockey player to be the flag bearer at the Olympics after former Indian hockey captain Pargat Singh (1996 Atlanta Olympics), incidentally belongs to the same village as Pargat — Mithapur in Jalandhar.
“From growing up and playing hockey in Mithapur village to being named the flag bearer for the Indian contingent is a big honour for a player like me. It is a matter of pride as well as motivation for the whole Indian hockey team as well as fans and I hope we return with a medal from Tokyo,” an elated Manpreet told The Indian Express.
The mid-fielder becomes only the sixth Indian hockey player to be named the flag bearer of the Indian contingent for the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Earlier, Lal Singh Bokhari (1932 Los Angeles Olympics), Major Dhyan Chand (1936 Munich Olympics), Balbir Singh Senior (1952 Helsinki Olympics and 1956 Melbourne Olympics), Zafar Iqbal (1984 Olympics) and Pargat Singh (1996 Olympics) had the honour.
Singh, who has played in 259 international matches for India, started playing hockey on the insistence of his father Baljit Singh and elder brothers Amandeep Singh and Sukhraj Singh at the hockey stadium at Mithapur. The youngster would make his debut for the Indian senior team in 2011. Singh played in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 2016. His father passed away before the start of the tournament and the mid-fielder rejoined the team after the funeral. The Indian team went on to win a bronze.
On Monday, Singh said his late father would have been very proud. “My father would often accompany me and my brothers to the hockey ground at our village and he would always encourage me to play my best. I wish he was alive to see this proud moment for me. He will be watching me from the heavens and will be inspiring me and the whole team. I had a talk with my mother Manjeet Kaur today and she too said the same thing,” shared an emotional Singh.
Mithapur has a history of producing international hockey players with Swarup Singh, a member of the 1952 Helsinki Olympics gold medal winning Indian hockey team, Kulwant Singh, member of the bronze medal winning Indian hockey team in 1972 Olympics, apart from Pargat Singh, captain and member of the Indian Hockey team in 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Alongwith Manpreet Singh, another Mithapur lad Mandeep Singh is also member of the Indian hockey team for the Tokyo Olympics. Earlier, Manpreet had won the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) player of the year award last year. Singh had become the first Indian player to win the award. While Pargat Singh played in three Olympics (1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics), Tokyo Olympics will be Manpreet’s third Olympics after he played in 2012 London Olympics and 2016 Rio Olympics.
“My brothers and I heard stories about Swarup Singh and Kulwant Singh sir from my father and grew up listening to and watching Pargat sir at the village hockey ground. Pargat sir keeps encouraging us and to emulate him is a big motivation for me,” said Singh.
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