Using this period to rejuvenate & prepare from scratch for Tokyo Games, says Varun

Defender and drag-flicker Varun Kumar believes the time off from the sport will help him in recharging his batteries for fresh challenges later this year and to focus on preparing for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics from scratch.

The Indian hockey core probables are currently spending time with their families at home during their month-long break after returning from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Bengaluru.

Varun said: “I see this period at home as one where we will get the chance to rejuvenate ourselves, and restart everything from scratch keeping in mind that we need to be peaking during the Tokyo Olympics scheduled to start in July 2021.”

“As an athlete, it is not always about how fresh you are physically, but there is also a lot of focus on the mental aspects. I feel this break has provided us with the opportunity to rest our minds as well, by spending some quality time with our families.

“I have been really enjoying the little moments with my parents, my elder brother and my pet dog, and that really helps you in just taking your mind off the sport sometimes,” he added.

Varun, who could not play in the Olympic Qualifiers last year due to a nerve damage to his right arm, has not represented the country since recuperating and recovering from the minor injury but says his focus is unwavering.

“It is definitely difficult for me because I haven’t been able to make the comeback to competitive hockey yet, but as things stand, everyone’s safety and health takes center stage. I am just being very patient and making sure that I am maintaining my fitness levels so that once we resume the sport, I can get into the rhythm of playing very soon,” said the 24-year-old.

Also reflecting on his past experience of winning the 2016 Junior World Cup at the Major Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium in Lucknow where his young side beat Belgium in the Final, Varun said lifting the trophy still remains his fondest sporting moment till date.

“During the lockdown, I have had the chance to reflect back on my journey to the Indian team, and I feel really proud to have won the Junior World Cup in 2016, it was one of the best moments of my playing career.

“I think having played continuously for the past 4-5 years, I haven’t really had the chance to reflect, but it was good to really sit with people like Krishan (Pathak), Harmanpreet (Singh) and Mandeep (Singh) who experienced that journey with me. We have spoken about how far we have since then, and it just gives you more confidence to achieve greater things for your country in the future,” said the defender.

Varun, who had scored two goals for the junior team during the 2016 World Cup campaign, says it is his dream to win the top prizes at the senior level as well.

“After that amazing year and tournament in 2016, and then playing consistently for the senior team, I felt ready to win the 2018 Men’s World Cup held in Odisha, but of course what you realize is that it is not that easy. Belgium was top-class in that tournament and deserved to win, and we faced a strong Netherlands’ team in the quarter-finals,” said Varun.

“However, I think the group of players we have are more experienced now and are really starting to play according to our strengths under our chief coach Graham Reid. My personal aim has always been to win major tournaments for my country, and we will go for it again next year with the Tokyo Olympics.

“But before we do look too far ahead, it is important for me and for my team mates to utilise the next 12 months, gain more experience and be ready to beat the best teams in the world come July 2021,” he added.