Graham Reid, chief coach of the Indian men’s hockey team, believes that his squad is in the top mental shape heading into the Tokyo Olympics.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing nationwide lockdown saw the Indian hockey team holed up at the Sports Authority of India (South Centre) in Bengaluru for the majority of the past 16 months with very little exposure to the outside world.
The Australian thinks that the challenging times have brought the team together.
“In the last 16 months the mental resilience of this group has risen dramatically,” Graham Reid told Outlook.
“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.”
The Indian hockey team reached Tokyo on Sunday and are in a mandatory three-day quarantine at the Games Village. While the quarantine rule comes across as a bit inconvenient, Graham 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,” Graham Reid 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,” he added.
The Indian hockey team, led by Manpreet Singh, go into Tokyo 2020 with little competitive exposure. Their only competitive matches this year came in April when they faced the reigning Olympic champions Argentina in the FIH Pro League.
Their Pro League fixtures against Great Britain, Spain and Germany in Europe had to be postponed due to the pandemic.
Though Graham Reid had hoped for a few more matches to assess his players in the lead up to Tokyo 2020, he chose 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 2020, India are grouped alongside Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Japan in Group A.
With the top four qualifying for the knock-outs, India is expected to make the quarter-finals at the Summer Games. But Graham Reid isn’t resting easy.
“In every Olympics, pools are difficult. In the four Olympics that I have seen and this will be the fifth, each of the pools have hugely competitive teams and this is no exception,” he said.
“From the quarter-finals, it brings the other pool into consideration as well. That’s why it is very difficult to ascertain the chances and we will take every game as it comes…
“We have pretty much beaten every team over the last two years and so the ability for us to win those games is there. We just need to make sure that we focus on our game plan and executing and the results will look after themselves.”
India begin their Olympic campaign with a match against New Zealand on Saturday, July 24.