Challenging times brought boys together, says India coach Graham Reid

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Bengaluru: India men’s hockey coach Graham Reid has stated the challenging times due to the COVID-19 pandemic have brought his team together ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. The Australian also stated that the boys are in the top mental shape heading to Tokyo.

“In the last 16 months the mental resilience of this group has risen dramatically,” Reid was quoted as saying to Outlook. After the COVID-19 pandemic broke out last year ensuring the whole country was under lockdown, the entire Indian hockey team was based at the Sports Authority of India in Bengaluru with very little exposure to the outside world.

“Sharing such an experience like this together bonds the group I feel and when we get to Tokyo we will be in a bio-bubble but that’s what we have been doing. In Tokyo, we will be in similar condition so bring it on and we have the resilience to be successful,” Reid added.

India reached Tokyo on Sunday and are in a mandatory three-day quarantine at the Games Village. Due to COVID, the Tokyo Olympics organisers have put in stringent protocols for the athletes and support staff and Reid isn’t complaining.

“We are invitees to their country. So, we have to play by whatever rules they determine and that is their right to do that,” he explained. “We just have to work through it and we will do that. We are able to train and hopefully we will be able to play a practice game when we are in Tokyo…we will live with whatever rules are created.”

Although India enjoyed the most success in the matches they played in 2021, still, the Manpreet Singh & Co, are going into the Tokyo Olympics with less preparation. Their only competitive matches came in the European Tour and the FIH Pro League matches in Argentina.

The FIH Pro League fixtures against Great Britain, Spain and Germany in Europe had to be postponed due to the pandemic. Reid opted not to dwell on the uncontrollables. “Cancellation of the European trip was a huge disappointment. We missed out on that piece of the puzzle that goes with Olympic selection,” the 1992 Barcelona Olympics silver medallist said.

“We have focused on our own internal competition and that’s what we have done. But yes, we would have loved more competition of course but we can’t dwell on that…and continue to build on what we have.”

At Tokyo Olympics, India are grouped alongside Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Japan in Group A. With the top four qualifying for the knockouts, India are expected to make the quarterfinals in Tokyo. India begin their Olympic campaign with a match against New Zealand on July 24.

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