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'My last desire is to see the Indian hockey team win an Olympic gold'

August 03, 2016 17:02 IST

'Treat every match as a final and play with that mindset.'

Triple Olympic hockey gold medallist Balbir Singh is hopeful of the P R Sreejesh-led men's hockey team winning a medal at the Games in Rio.

The Indian hockey team gets a pep talk from chief coach Roelant Oltmans

IMAGE: The Indian hockey team gets a pep talk from chief coach Roelant Oltmans. Photograph: Hockey India

Hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr has one last wish: to see eight-time champions India win another Olympic gold in the sport.

A member of India’s Olympic gold medal-winning teams in London (1948), Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956 as captain), he is hopeful of the P R Sreejesh-led men's hockey team winning a medal at the Games in Rio.

"I have strong hope that we will do well this time and win a medal. My last desire in my remaining lifetime is to see the Indian hockey team win an Olympic gold medal," the 92-year-old veteran said.

Probably India's oldest living Olympian, Balbir Sr had words of encouragement for not just the country's hockey team, but all those participating in Rio.

"Work hard, aim high, think positive; the spot at the top is always vacant. It's meant for the brave, those who deserve to reach there. When I was playing as captain, I used to say such things, and even as chief coach and manager (of the Indian hockey team), I used to say that we have go to win.

"I have believed in this philosophy throughout my life. At no stage we can negative thoughts to cross our minds. We have to give our best and aim for win," he asserted, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently exuded confidence that the Indian contingent would put up a grand show at Rio.

Asked if the current Indian hockey team has the mettle to bring back the elusive gold after a long hiatus, the former centre-forward replied: "The team has been preparing hard. I would tell them go all out, go for the win. The present hockey captain (Sreejesh) has also shown a lot of promise.

"I will tell the team to treat every match as a final and play with that mindset."

Advising the team to work on finishing, he said, “Our game should be a balanced one. While we have to play an attacking game, our defence should also not lag."

He refused to single out any player as the key to the team’s fortunes.

"During my playing days, then as coach and manager also, I never used to point out any one individual. For me, entire team, all 11 players and extras also, are representing the country. Till the game is going on, all attention, all focus should be on winning," he said.

2016 is the diamond jubilee year of independent India’s hat-trick of Olympic gold medals at the 1956 Olympics.

The Indian hockey team had set an unmatched record of being the only side to win an Olympic gold without conceding a single goal in any of the matches. The tournament aggregate score of the Indian team was an astonishing 38-0.

Besides being a player par excellence, Balbir was the manager and chief coach of the Indian team at the 1975 World Cup, which India won, and the 1971 World Cup bronze medal-winning team.

During the London Olympics in 2012, he was honoured in the Olympic Museum exhibition, ‘The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games’, held at the Royal Opera House.

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