After Tokyo glory, PR Sreejesh and Manpreet Singh set sights on Paris 2024

Indian hockey goalkeeper Sreejesh says he’s hungry for another shot at Olympic glory after guiding the team to a historic bronze at Tokyo 2020

By Olympic Channel Writer
Picture by Alexander Hassenstein/ Getty Images

A spate of retirements may render a new look to the Indian men’s hockey team, but Tokyo hero PR Sreejesh is not going anywhere. The veteran goalkeeper, who guided his team to a historic bronze at Tokyo 2020, said he’s hungry for more Olympic glory.

“No player will say no to an Olympics, we are greedy people,” Sreejesh, 33, said during the India Today conclave on Saturday.

“The motivation will always be to work hard and give best.I have had a career of 21 years. So I will always want to play one more match, one more Olympics so as long as my team members don’t kick me out, I will stay in the team for sure. But nothing is certain in a sportsperson’s life. There can be an injury, performance can go down, others can do better than me.”

Sreejesh, who pulled off a stunning save in the dying minutes during the high-octane bronze medal playoff against Germany, was unwavering in goal throughout the tournament. His efforts were recognized by the FIH, who named him the ‘Best Goalkeeper’ of the year earlier this week.

His former teammates Rupinder Pal Singh, SV Sunil and Birendra Lakra all announced their retirements after India’s Olympic campaign, which saw them win a medal after 41 years. But Sreejesh, who played his third Olympics in Tokyo, is not done just yet.

Manpreet Singh was among six hockey players who contracted the coronavirus. Photo: Hockey India

“He is going to Paris from our side,” captain Manpreet Singh stated during the conclave, giving Sreejesh the vote of confidence.

“Sreejesh is the best goal keeper, so we would want him to be there at the goal. We have the confidence in him but rest depends on his fitness and other things.”

After years of languishing on the sidelines in hockey, the Indian men’s and women’s team scripted a brilliant turnaround in Tokyo. While the men finished on the podium, the women’s team came agonizingly close. The Rani Rampal-led team became the first Indian women’s team to enter the semi-final, but lost to defending champions Great Britain in the bronze medal playoff.

India’s campaign at the Tokyo Olympics has not only revived interest in the sport but rekindled expectations.

“Firstly we will aim to qualify for Paris 2024 in Asian Games 2022,” Manpreet added. “If we do so then we will have time to prepare ourselves for the next Olympics. We are already practising for our camp which is starting next week.”

The Indian captain assured that this team was looking to raise the bar further in international competitions.

"For future tournaments like 2022 Asian Games 2022, World Cup -- our aim will be to give our 100 per cent and also win there. We will not stop here and we will aim for the world number 1 spot. And the possibility is that we can achieve this with hard work," he said.