In an exclusive interview with TOI, 35-year-old award-winning Padma Shri spoke about his personal aspirations, team ambition and the Olympics in times of the pandemic.
As a more experienced player, what thoughts do you share with the team?
Experience. I have it in abundance and that is what I can share. Most of my teammates are first-time Olympians. When an athlete enters the field of play, he feels in a comfort zone because his Olympic dream has come true. This is what I want to tell you, playing the Olympics is important, but that’s not your goal. Your goal is to win a medal at the Olympics. Players going to their second Olympics like me know the agony of missing a medal. I have told them that we exceed our limits, this time we are good enough to win a medal. Being a goalkeeper, I have said to myself: NO GOALS!
“I didn’t set out to beat the world; I just set out to do my best.” # Proud # OlympicGamesTokyo2020 https://t.co/8RvAeT7s2P
– sreejesh pr (@ 16Sreejesh) 1626738120000
Is different Olympic GamesHow will you accept it?
These Olympics are not your normal Olympics. In the past, it used to be a sports festival. We exchange badges and flags with athletes from other countries, take selfies and photos with heroes and legends from other sports, and also socialize. But this time, it’s about the team and you. That’s a worrying factor and it’s about us 18 players, coaches and support staff. Obviously, the fear of becoming infected with Covid-19 and endangering the team weighs a lot, but the last 16 months have prepared us well for it. We are probably the only team that has been isolated for such a long period and that can work to our advantage.
During the pandemic, you didn’t have a lot of specialized goalkeeping training, did that help you become self-sufficient?
Since 2012, we only have consulting coaches. Everyone has perfected my basics. But the biggest drawback is that there were no regular follow-ups. I started watching my own videos, rectifying mistakes, and talking to our coaches. But there is a limit to self-study. When I want to speak to a fellow goalkeeper, I turn to Adrian (D’Souza). Adrian’s goalkeeping style is different from mine, but he’s a morale booster. Another goalkeeper I interact with is the Dutchman Jaap Stockmann, who has always intervened with his experience. That being said, the last 8 or 9 years have helped me become self-reliant.
From Tokyo, with love 💙🇮🇳 Rate the look of Team India from the Olympic Village. Let’s go with 🔥 # HaiTayyar # IndiaKaGame… https://t.co/eo3GHcu1jB
– Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) 1626771529000
In the past 16 months, how much did your reading habit help you cope with being away from home and in virtual isolation?
Sometimes I miss my family a lot. In those weak moments, books come to my rescue because they help me to think differently. In the morning, I try to read self-help books and books on meditation.