PR Sreejesh, captain of the India hockey team, feels the team have the perfect balance of senior players and youngsters ahead of the Rio Olympics 2016 and that could turn out to be a massive advantage for Roelant Oltmans' side this time around. The India men's hockey team will look for their first hockey gold medal in 36 years in the Rio de Janeiro games, scheduled to start on Aug. 5.
Sreejesh, 28, who was named the hockey skipper ahead of Sardar Singh for the Olympics, will look to continue the impressive performance his team have achieved so far. The India men's hockey team secured their best-ever finish in the Champions Trophy, as they won a silver medal earlier this year.
"We've maintained this trend [keeping a balance of senior players and youngsters] for the last three years, so that's a very good thing. The understanding between players and coaches, and among players themselves, has built really well," said the goalkeeper in an exclusive interview to DNA on Friday. "The team is gelling very well, and that's why we are getting positive results. Yes, we need youngsters in our team. With only seniors, you can't do anything, and vice-versa. So the mixture of experience and youth in this team is an ideal combination.
"Whenever juniors make mistakes, the seniors are there to support them and guide them. Similarly, when the seniors get tired, the juniors step up and use their fitness levels to take their place. If you see in the last tournament (CT), we were in good shape in all aspects: be it skills or fitness. So, it's a good sign for us going into Rio, that we're building in the right direction and doing a good job. And, beating almost all top teams in the world has also given an added confidence to our team," Sreejesh explained.
It's been a while since India last won a medal in hockey in the Olympics. A total of eight gold medals have been bagged by the country in the mega sporting event pre- and post-independence, with the last gold medal coming in the 1980 Olympics. Can the deadlock finally break this time around? Sreejesh mentioned performing to the best of abilities in the event remains the key.
"I think we already have a lot of history at the Olympics. We've won gold, silver, bronze in the past. So it's not about history. But yes, it's been a long gap (since we last won an Olympic medal)," added Sreejesh. "We want to stop that gap. We just want to say that we're there. So the ultimate dream for us is to perform to our maximum and reach the podium. And, we're working really hard for that."