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'Pity we couldn't win hockey medal in '84 Olympics'

By Bikash Mohapatra
July 26, 2012 08:57 IST
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Moscow Olympics gold medallist MM Sommaya goes down memory lane with Bikash Mohapatra.

One glance at the Indian men's hockey team's record at the Olympics makes one thing clear: it will take a lot many years before its record of eight gold medals is equalled, let alone broken.

It is a flattering statistic, no doubt. However, what follows is a reality check, one that suggests that seven of those eight gold medals were won during a productive phase between 1928 and 1964.

In the 48 years that followed, the national team added just one more gold to the haul -- 32 years back in Moscow, an Olympics where a majority of the top hockey teams did not participate.

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India's performance, thereafter, went from bad to worse, reaching its nadir with the team's failure to qualify for the Beijing Games four years back. A dubious first!

For ardent hockey fans, that gold medal triumph in Moscow remains one of the last memorable moments, considering the hockey team has done little of note in the following years.

The case is no different for members of that squad, led by Vasudevan Baskaran, that edged Spain 4-3 in the final.

"Moscow brings back good memories, of course," confessed MM Sommaya, adding, "We had a great coach in Balkishen Singh.

"But I was too young back then and so the entire impact sunk in much later.

"Of course, it was a great feeling to hear the national anthem being played."

Although the former midfielder looks back at the triumph with pride, he has no hesitation in accepting that the side he was part of wasn't the best to don the country's colours.

"Though we won gold in Moscow, I felt the team we had during the Los Angeles Games in 1984 was superior," explained Sommaya, before proceeding to elaborate about the squad that included the likes of Hardeep Singh, Mervyn Fernandis, Mohammad Shahid, Zafar Iqbal and Joaquim Carvalho, besides himself.

"In fact, I would say it was the best Indian side in the post-independence period," continued Somaya, adding, "It was unfortunate that we couldn't win a medal."

That squad, with huge potential, managed only a fifth place finish in Los Angeles. Four years later in Seoul, with Sommaya captain, the team finished a rung lower. Since then, it's been a fall, culminating with the debacle in the Beijing qualifiers.

The former India captain admitted that it would be tough for India to win a medal in London. However, he expressed confidence in the work done by the team's Australian coach, Michael Nobbs.

"Nobbs has instilled a lot of confidence in this team," declared Sommaya, adding, "Tactically, these players are aware; physically they are well-built and technical they are good.

"I am hopeful this team will do well in the future." 

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