New dawn for Indian hockey

Due to men’s bronze medal and women’s fourth place at Tokyo Games

A bronze medal was good enough to write a golden chapter in Indian hockey, which was desperately seeking a revival for long, as the Indian men and women teams conjured up an inspirational show at the Tokyo Games which will be remembered for ages.

A historic bronze-winning show by the men’s team and an outstanding fourth place finish for the women’s team infused fresh life into the game which was in danger of slipping into oblivion.

Defying all odds and challenges thrown by the COVID-19 pandemic, Indian men’s team ushered in a new dawn in 2021 by ending a 41-year long wait a medal at the Olympics — a stage which it owned in its glorious past.

The women’s team narrowly missed out on a historic bronze but its best-ever performance at the show-piece made it even more memorable for the fans who emotionally connect with the game.

The players were confined to a bio-bubble at the SAI Centre in Bengaluru in 2020 but the year 2021 started on a bright note as the Indian men’s team fought hard against Germany and Great Britain to finish the four-match European tour with two wins and as many draws. The upward swing continued as India continued its unbeaten run on the Argentina tour, beating the 2016 Olympic champion twice and drawing as many in four practice games.

The team also won against the Los Leones in the two-match FIH Pro League tie to set the momentum for what eventually turned out to be a watershed year for Indian hockey.

Next came the most important event for the eight-time past winner, the Tokyo Olympics, where India finished second in the pool stage, winning four out of five matches.

The Manpreet-led side defeated Great Britain 3-1 in the quarterfinals before losing 2-5 against Belgium in the last four round.

However, India staged a remarkable comeback and earned a 5-4 win over Germany to clinch the much-needed bronze medal.

Sweeping the awards

By virtue of its historic Olympic campaign, the Indians swept the FIH Hockey Star Awards 2021 winning all categories, which created a bit of controversy with Olympic champion Belgium crying foul.

Harmanpreet Singh was crowned the FIH Player of the Year, P.R. Sreejesh won the Goalkeeper of the Year, Vivek Sagar Prasad won FIH Rising Star of the Year award for the second consecutive time and India’s chief coach Graham Reid was awarded the FIH Coach of the Year.

Indian players celebrate their victory against Australia during women’s field hockey quarterfinal match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, in Tokyo, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. | Photo Credit: PTI


Many firsts

The Indian women’s hockey team also added to the cherry by achieving many firsts in 2021.

From a historic fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics to achieving the best-ever FIH world rankings to sweeping FIH Hockey Stars Awards 2021 in all categories, the year gone by was nothing short of a fairytale for the Indian women team.

The Rani Rampal-led side, that started the Olympic campaign with three losses, later pulled off, arguably, one of the biggest upsets in world hockey with a win over mighty Australia in the quarterfinals.

But as luck would have it, the Indian women missed out on an Olympic medal by whisker after losing 1-2 to Argentina in the semifinals before suffering a 3-4 heartbreak at the hands of Great Britain in the bronze medal match. But the fourth place finish was more than enough to build women hockey’s identity in the country.

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