Tokyo / New Delhi | Jagran Sports Desk: As Indian Men’s Hockey team made an Olympic podium finish after an over four-decade long wait, the ‘historic day’ in Tokyo ended up marking the resurgence of Indian Hockey back on the global map of the game hallmarked by the greats such as Major Dhyan Chand.

With eight Olympic Gold medals (1928, 1932, 1936, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1964, 1980), one silver (1960) and two bronze medals (1972, 2021), Indian Men’s Hockey became the world’s most successful Hockey team in Olympics with most number of medals.

However, as Hockey took a downward spiral after 1980, with the lowest point in 2008 when Indians failed to qualify for Beijing Olympics, the story of Hockey’s resurgence has been remarkable with each Hockey player pushing the optimal of hard work with humility.

As the nation dips into celebration following Indian Men’s Hockey team’s Bronze medal win in Tokyo Olympics, here we bring you the glimpse of Manpreet Singh-led men who made Hockey’s resurgence possible.

Goalkeeper

PR Sreejesh – Olympian Sreejesh Road tells the way to Indian Hockey Goalkeeper’s village in Kerala’s Pallikkara. A Padma Shri and Arjuna awardee, PR Sreejesh claimed the title of ‘the great wall of India’ for his stiff saves at most defining moments in Tokyo Olympics. In his most vital save of the career, Sreejesh repelled Germany’s penalty corner to ensure India’s podium finish.

Defenders

Harmanpreet Singh – In the 5-4 Bronze medal victory against Germany in Tokyo Olympics, as Harmanpreet hit the goalpost, celebrations broke in at his home in Amritsar hinting of a historic win that was just minutes away. Team India got its talented defender when he debuted in Sultan Johar Cup in Malaysia in 2014.

Rupinder Pal Singh: Hailed as one of the world’s finest drag flickers, 30-year-old Rupinder Pal Singh, originally from Punjab’s Faridkot defended Indian circle to the best of his abilities. The one goal that Rupinder scored in India’s 5-4 Bronze medal victory continues to be his moment of glory as it was his goal in the third quarter that gave India 4-3 lead. He represented India in the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Glasgow, 2014 Asian Games at Incheon, 2016 Olympic Games held at Rio de Janeiro, and at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, held at Gold Coast, Australia.

Surender Kumar – Team India’s defender hailing from Haryana’s Kurukshetra, Surender was also the part of the team which played in Rio Olympics. The first time Surender held the hockey stick, it was bought for him by a homely neighbour since his father had declined to buy it for him. Following this, Surender started to play hockey on the insistence of his coach Gurvinder.

Amit Rohidas – The Odisha born defender’s penalty shootout defences acted as second goalkeeping plays next to SR Sreejesh. Regarded by Hockey greats as one of the best first-rushers in the world, Amit got his first major breakthrough when he was selected in the Indian team for Under-18 Asia Cup, held at Myanmar in 2009.

Birendra Lakra – The 31-year-old Vice Captain of Team India has been an integral part of Team India’s Olympic resurgence who was also the part of 2012 London Olympics in which India finished last. Lakra missed out on Rio Olympics due to knee injury but ended up playing his 200th International Game in Tokyo Olympics.

Mid-fielders

Hardik Singh – The third goal by Indian mid-fielder in the Quarter final contest against Great Britain gave India a 3-1 lead and finally the semi-final spot after 49 years in Olympics. In the Bronze medal contest against, as India came back from 1-3 down to 5-4 win, Hardik Singh’s pulled goal back for India to make 2-3 played a defining role.

Manpreet Singh – The flag bearer of Indian contingent in Tokyo Olympics, the Men’s Hockey captain will come back home with an Olympic medal. Born in a farmer family in the outskirts of Punjab’s Jalandhar, the ace halfback of Indian Hockey has been an integral part of Team India since 2012 London Games. Named as Asia's Junior Player of the Year in 2014, Manpreet lost his father in 2016 during Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament in 2016. After performing the last rites, Manpreet came back to play for India to ensure India winning the second spot in the Games.

Vivek Sagar Prasad – The second-youngest player ever to debut for India at 17-years, Vivek was named Rising Star of the year in 2019. Celebrations broke out at Chandaun village near Itarsi town in Madhya Pradesh after Indian Hockey Team won Bronze medal on Thursday morning.

Nilankanta Sharma – Manipur’s Nilakanta Sharma, who plays as midfielder for the Indian national team. He was part of the Indian squad which won the 2016 Men’s Hockey Junior World Cup. He is among the 10 Olympic debutants in the 16-member Indian men's hockey team.

Sumit – Another star of 2016 Men’s Hockey Junior World Cup, Sumit made his debut at the 2017 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. Son of landless labourer, Team India midfielder started playing hockey for a pair of shoes which were provided for free by a coach at his village in Sonepat. Sumit reportedly did odd jobs, including working as a dhaba cleaner, to make ends meet. His elder brother, Amit Kumar, quit playing hockey so that Sumit could get the facilities needed to make it to Team India.

Forwards

Shamsher Singh – Among India’s finest forwards, Shamsher Singh managed to put Punjab’s border town of Attari on the Olympic hockey map. During his lesser known days, the major struggle for Shamsher was to get a hockey stick and shoes. “Whenever it used to have a crack, my father would fix it with nails and tape it. For two years, I played with that broken stick,” Shamsher was quoted as saying by The Times of India.

Dilpreet Singh – An army brat from Amritsar district of Punjab, 21-year old Dilpreet Singh was chosen for the national team while playing for Jalandhar’s Surjit National Academy. In the hockey match played between Great Britain and India at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday, India dominated the match by overcoming Great Britain 3-1.

In the match, Dilpreet Singh scored one goal against Great Britain. Is most fulfilling that the Indian team entered the semifinals of the Olympics after 49 years. Dilpreet’s father told mediapersons that his son was realizing his dream of playing in Olympics.

Gurjant Singh – The yet another star of the team that won the Gold at 2016 Men's Hockey Junior World Cup, Gurjant Singh was inspired to take up the sport by his maternal uncle Hardev Singh Chahal. Gurjant's quick presence on the field and a stellar goal was instrumental in Team India's quarterfinal win.

Mandeep Singh – Mandeep Singh was instrumental in driving the Ranchi franchise to the title, in the debut period of the Hockey India League. He has been a vital member of the India men's hockey team's gold medal-winning run at the 2018 Asian Champions Trophy, silver medal at the 2016 and 2018 Champions Trophy, and a bronze medal at the Asian Games.

Posted By: Mukul Sharma