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Buoyant Indian hockey team returns home, eyes Rio glory

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New Delhi : The Indian hockey team arrived back in the country on Tuesday after a strong showing at the 6 Nations Invitational tournament in Valencia and a Silver medal from the Champions Trophy in London. The team has recently risen to number five in the official FIH World Rankings.

India’s show at the Six-Nations Invitational Hockey Tournament ended with a 1-1 draw against Spain in Valencia placing them on 5th spot in the tournament. The team played in Olympic format with a 16 member-squad at the 6 Nations tournament. The 16 member team, presents its own new set of challenges, as reduced bench meant longer time spent on the pitch, with lesser time for recovery off the pitch. The decision was made to acclimatize players to the format so that they can tactically manage the effects of a reduced bench strength.

The Champions Trophy performance was the team’s best ever, early India had won the Bronze medal in the 1982 Champions Trophy.

Fielding an experimental team, which featured a lot of young faces making their debut at the tournament, they scored 10 goals in the tournament. The defence was the key factor though in their march to the Final, as they conceded the second least goals in the tournament (11) behind the eventual champions Australia.

Harmanpreet Singh, was named the Best Upcoming Player of the Tournament player of the tournament. The young members at the recent tournaments have exhilarated audiences with their performances. The current team has also been termed as the best team so far in terms of fitness, talent and unity, strengthening the hopes for Rio Olympics among fans in the country.

“This was a great opportunity for me to play with the senior members and to learn so much from them. Playing on the 16 member Olympic format was challenging but also helped us gauge what we learnt at the training. Ensuring we are permanently, physically prepared for all scenarios, and that we are in peak shape as a unit when head to Rio,” Harmanpreet Singh said.

Speaking after arriving back in the country, PR Sreejesh who had captained the team at the Champions Trophy said, “As proud as we are at our achievement, we are also very grateful and overwhelmed by the reactions from the support we have received from home. After a long tour, now we are focussed on the Rio Games and ensuring a strong showing there so that we can make our supporters proud. We will have a few days break to rejuvenate ourselves before we resume the camp at SAI Bengaluru and get ready for Rio.”

Chief Coach Roelant Oltmans added, “Our aim was always to win a medal at the Champions Trophy. We have achieved that. It is on the backburner now though. We have to look ahead and focus on the Olympics. The team deserves a much-needed break after all the hard work, and then, very soon, it will be back to the grind as we sharpen up for the all-important Olympic Games.” (ANI)

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