Nobody gave them an iota of chance at this year’s Olympics. However, the India’s Men’s Hockey team secured the bronze after a barren run of over four decades, trashing all doomsday predictors. They needed to defy history as they had poor returns to show in the previous two Olympics, last in 2012 and eighth in 2016. Eventually, they defied history in style by defeating Rio 2016 Bronze medalist Germany.
Some snobbish characters are still sneering at the victory on social media platforms by blurting out shamelessly that it is just bronze, not gold, so what is the big deal with the triumph. But these highly pessimistic souls can never understand the feeling of achieving something valuable after a heartbreaking upset because they cannot even hold a hockey stick properly. Therefore, the Men in Blue can keep their heads firmly above their shoulders for getting the brown metal as nobody cares for a fourth-place team in an event.
When they landed in Tokyo this time they also had to deal with the scourge of the pandemic as the city was reeling under several positive cases and the virus had even entered the Games village. Despite all the fears, the team was determined that they are not going to come back to India empty-handed this year. Shortly afterward an air of pessimism began to fill inside their rooms when they got humiliated by the Aussies (1-7) in their second game. Knives were out and there were talks of an early exit from Tokyo. But the defeat made the team more resolute in their approach and the team never looked back till it went down fighting to Belgium (2-5) in the semi-final. However, their journey did not end there as they had an opportunity to finish third and secured a medal after the 1980 Moscow games. This was harsh on the team that scripted a spectacular turnaround in the Olympics 2020, from taunts of early departure to vying for Gold or Silver. But they put the past behind them and created history today by beating Germany (5-4) by pocketing a medal after 41years.
So, how did the turnaround happened? This team always had the talent but this time they also brought in the “never say die” attitude. This attitude ensured that India finally got something in a game that used to be their fiefdom in the past. The credit for the same has to go the coach Graham Reid, who instilled the belief among players that they can achieve anything if they inculcate the habit of obstinacy on the field against the opponents. Before the start of the game, Reid had said that he is very much surprised by the mental resilience shown by the players in the midst of a pandemic and this would hold them in good stead in this year’s games at Tokyo. His word indeed turned out to be prophetic. So, what if India failed to secure the gold or the silver in their national game, the courageous display by Mandeep Singh and the company is worth its weight in the gold.