Staying on SAI campus in lockdown helped keep Oly prep going: Manpreet

Having being made the skipper of the national team at the tender age of 25, India hockey star Manpreet Singh has gone from strength to strength and has been leading by example for a while now.

Such has been his influence on the team that he was awarded with the prestigious Arjuna Award in 2018 and the FIH men’s player of the year award in 2019.

Manpreet, however, credited his leadership qualities to the senior players in the team, who not only help him take good decisions on the field but also make others understand that there is no ‘I’ in team.

“Leading the Indian team has been an enjoyable experience for me. It’s a great honour to be the captain of the team,” Manpreet told IANS.

“I have not felt the pressure that much because senior players like P.R. Sreejesh, Rupinder Pal Singh, S.V. Sunil and Ramandeep Singh have always been there to help me.

“It’s always been about the team for us and not about individuals. Each of us contributes to the team’s cause as much as we can,” he added.

Manpreet, along with his team, spent time at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Bengaluru during the lockdown as coronavirus pandemic ravaged through the entire world.

He lifted the lid on how the players tried to keep themselves busy and engaged during the period by studying their future opponents and also kept working on their fitness so they don’t have start from scratch once they came out on the field again.

“We were very fortunate to be staying on the Sports Authority of India campus in Bengaluru during the lockdown,” Manpreet said.

“We carried out many activities such as attending english classes via video conference, watching footage of our opponents to analyze their strategies and so on which helped us deal with the situation.

“We had the national restrictions on outdoor activities, but I did as many core exercises as possible in my room to maintain my fitness.

“We mostly carried out body-weight training and we also went for individual runs for about 4-5kms around the campus,” he added.

Now the long road towards full-fitness begins for Team India, who were performing at supremely high levels before the COVID-19 crisis began. India are regarded as one of the fittest teams on the circuit but according to Manpreet, it will take substantial amount of time to regain it.

“It was really nice to start sports activities after a long time. Since we carried out exercises in our rooms for two months, we were not so stiff,” Manpreet said.

“However, we decided to take things slowly and followed a very simple routine without putting too much pressure on our bodies.

“It will certainly take a long time for us to reach our peak form again. It’s difficult to predict the exact time that will be needed for us to get back to our peak fitness and form.

“The coaches and support staff will assess our performance day by day once we are back in the SAI Centre Bangalore. We will work on basic skills for some time and move forward gradually,” he added.

Despite the stoppage, Manpreet still has one eye on the showpiece event in Tokyo, which was postponed till next year looking at the virus threat. While he conceded he was disappointed at first after hearing the news but he explained how it could be a blessing in disguise for the youngsters who are still trying to break into the team.

“I was disappointed when I first heard that the Olympics has been postponed. However, I knew that the best decision had been taken, keeping in mind the situation the entire world is fighting at the moment.

“We will definitely use the extra year to take our game to the next level. We have certainly pushed the reset button as far as our preparations are concerned.

“The extra year will give the younger players time to develop their games and make a strong case for themselves to be a part of the team for the Tokyo Olympics.”