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Paris is my fourth and probably last Olympics, says former Indian hockey team captain Manpreet Singh

Former Indian men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh has no plans to retire soon, but he is well aware that the Paris Games will mark his fourth and final Olympics.

Paris is my fourth and probably last Olympics, says former Indian hockey team captain Manpreet Singh snt
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First Published Jul 11, 2024, 5:18 PM IST

Former Indian men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh has no plans to retire soon, but he is well aware that the Paris Games will mark his fourth and final Olympics. Determined to give his best one last time at the world's most prestigious sporting event, the 32-year-old reflects on his journey. Manpreet led the Indian team to break a 41-year Olympic medal drought by securing bronze in Tokyo and has been a key member of the squads that won gold at the Asian Games in 2014 and 2022.

"I never thought that I would be able to play four Olympics. It is every player's dream to play in the Olympics and win medals. I consider myself very lucky that this is my fourth Olympics," Manpreet told PTI Bhasha.

"I am going to Paris thinking as if it is my last Olympics and I have to give my best. I haven't thought about quitting the game yet and my complete focus is on the Paris Games," said the seasoned midfielder, who debuted for India in 2011 at the age of just 19.

Manpreet's journey from Mithapur village in Jalandhar to Paris has been anything but smooth. He has faced poverty, false allegations, and witnessed his mother's struggles while striving to make a mark in his career.

After the Tokyo Olympics, Manpreet endured the toughest phase of his career when former coach Sjoerd Marijne leveled serious allegations against him. Marijne accused Manpreet of asking a player to underperform so his friends could make the team during the 2018 Commonwealth Games, an allegation that both the men's and women's teams jointly denied, asserting that the Dutchman made the claim to promote his book.

"That was the most difficult phase for me. I could never even think of such things. I was broken and lost faith in everyone. I told (PR) Sreejesh with whom I share everything. My mother also encouraged me to keep playing to fulfil my father's dream and my whole team supported me," said Manpreet.

"In bad times, the support of the family and team is very important because at that time the player finds himself very lonely. When the team stands together, it gives a lot of encouragement and also helps in making a comeback. We have also seen Hardik Pandya making a great comeback recently," he added.

"When I look back now, it seems like a dream. I come from a humble background where we have seen struggles for the basic needs. Father used to work as a carpenter in Dubai but had returned from there due to medical reasons. My mother struggled a lot and both my brothers also played hockey but they left due to financial problems," said Manpreet, who was the flag-bearer at Tokyo Olympics along with boxing legend MC Mary Kom.

Although Manpreet is no longer the captain of the team, having passed on the responsibility to Harmanpreet Singh, the star midfielder remains a crucial senior member who understands his role well within the squad.

"Even if I am not the captain now, it does not make any difference. Every player has his own role in hockey. The effort is to take everyone along. Being a senior, we have to inspire the youngsters," he said.

Manpreet, who idolizes Pargat Singh, another native of Mithapur, mentioned that they are following the same preparation process for the Paris Games as they did for Tokyo.

"Before the Tokyo Olympics, we spent maximum time together due to COVID that resulted in excellent team bonding. We will continue the same because 11 players are the same who were in Tokyo. We are sharing our experiences with the five debutants," he said.

India has been placed in a challenging pool for the Paris Olympics, alongside Australia, Belgium, Argentina, New Zealand, and Ireland.

"Our pool is tough and we cannot take any team lightly. New Zealand has defeated us in the World Cup and Ireland has recently defeated Belgium. Our focus is on ourselves as to how we can execute our strategy. We get less chances against good teams but converting 50-50 chances is the mark of a champion. We are well prepared to do that in Paris," he concluded.

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