Sandeep Singh hopes to shine on the big occasion

first_imgHe has got the five Olympic rings tattooed on his right arm, signifying that representing India at that stage is his greatest achievement and ambition.The star drag-flicker played a stellar role in ensuring that India made the cut for London after missing out on Beijing 2008.His 16 goals, including five in the final against France, were the most crucial factor as India won the Olympic hockey qualifier on home turf to seal their spot.Sandeep has become an irresistible force in penalty corner and, more often than not, finds the mark from the top of the striking circle. India will hope that he continues his rich vein of form in the British capital.”This is going to be my second Olympics after Athens 2004, so I am not as excited as most of my teammates for whom it will be the first,” Sandeep told Mail Today from Pune, where the London-bound squad is undergoing a preparatory camp.However, it does not mean that the Haryana player is any less motivated to shine. Having built a formidable reputation over his eight-year-long career, Sandeep has the confidence that he will rise to the occasion on the big stage. “I am just trying to give my best at the Olympics as fans have a lot of expectations from me,” the drag-flicker said.After India endured the heartbreak in Chile, where they failed to make it to the Olympics for the first time, Sandeep did not lose heart.”I knew we will get more opportunities to qualify. But we needed to get better to take on the better sides in the world,” the defender with 168 international caps said.advertisementHe was confident enough to have got the five Olympic rings tattooed on his arm. “I just felt like having it done and the rings have been on my arm for the last three years,” Sandeep said.With the Michael Nobbs-David John combination at the helm for the last one year, things have looked up for Indian hockey. Sandeep, who has had a stint as national captain a few years ago, has also experienced the positive changes.”The team has improved a lot in the recent times and there has been a great stress on fitness. This has helped us compete toe to toe with the top sides.”Sandeep’s prowess with the drag-flick was evident from very early on in his career, and now his strike rate on penalty corners is close to 90 per cent. There are not many goalkeepers in the world who can keep his ferocious drives out.But several experts of the game have put a question mark over Sandeep’s skills in open play. His tackling and defensive work has not always inspired confidence.But things have started looking up in that facet as well.”In the run-up to the Olympics, I am focusing on being as fit as I possibly can. Also, I am concentrating on getting better on facets other than penalty corners,” the deputy superintendent of police in Haryana Police said.Sandeep is the only player in the present squad, other than Ignace Tirkey, who has prior Olympic experience.That, coupled with a tough group that India find themselves in, make it a tough challenge. But Sandeep is undeterred. “We will take it match by match and not take any pressure on ourselves. There are a lot of young players in our squad but everyone is mature enough to not let the expectations get the better of them,” he said.last_img

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