The Manpreet Singh-led Indian men’s hockey side has a lot of quality players, giving the team a good chance of finishing on the podium, said Dilip Tirkey, one of the best defenders India has produced.
“I have great expectations from the current Indian men’s team. I think there is a lot of quality in the side, and they have a good chance of finishing on the podium at Tokyo. I would like to wish the team all the very best and I hope that they do well in the Olympics this year,” said Tirkey, who represented the country in three Olympics – 1996 Atlanta, 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens.
Speaking about the excitement of playing in his first Olympics in Atlanta, Tirkey said, “Every athlete has a dream of becoming an Olympian, and I got a chance of playing in the Olympics for the first time in 1996. We had some big players in our team at that time such as our captain Pargat Singh. I was very excited to play in the Olympics.”
On his memories from 2000 Sydney, Tirkey said that the 1-1 draw against Poland will always remain a big regret for him and the Indian team.
“We performed very well in the league stages of the 2000 Olympics. We played well against Argentina, Australia, and Spain and we needed to defeat Poland to qualify for the semifinals, but we couldn’t do it. The match against Poland got so difficult for us and it ended in a 1-1 draw in the end.
“We were leading 1-0 after I scored in the 53rd minute but Poland managed to score in the last few moments of the match. If we had beaten Poland, then we could have qualified for the semifinals and after that anything could have happened. So that draw against Poland has remained as a sad memory for us.”
The 43-year-old said that there were many exciting moments during the 1996 Games, including Leander Paes’s bronze-winning feat.
“There were many exciting moments for us at the 1996 Olympics. Tennis star Leander Paes also made history in the Olympics by winning bronze. It was India’s first Olympic medal in an individual event in a long time. We got to see the US President Bill Clinton as well, who visited the Olympic Village. I went to watch the athletics and football events at the Olympics as well.”