iconimg Sunday, August 30, 2015

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 24, 2012
There couldn't have been a better send-off to the men's hockey team for the London Olympics than in the presence of former greats.

Among those present on Sunday was Leslie Claudius, a member of the national team that won three Olympic titles (1948-1956) and silver at the 1960 Olympic Games.

Despite their frail figures and feeble voices, there was enough rush of adrenaline before a high voltage event like the Olympics.

In the company of the former greats, coach Michael Nobbs and his boys, striving for redemption, looked mesmerised.

"It's a great source of inspiration to be amongst the hockey stars of yesteryear," acknowledged Bharat Chetri.

So enamoured was he by India's golden past that the skipper couldn't stop saying, "We wouldn't let our country down."

Till Sunday, Chetri, like most of his teammates, had read about the golden era in hockey. In the presence of the greats, he wished the occasion could be prolonged before the team embarked on an arduous journey.

Claudius's teammates, Jaswant Rajput and Keshav Dutt, were two others from the 1948 Olympic gold medal-winning team who were present. Notable by their absence were Nandy Singh and Balbir Singh Sr, also members of the 1948 team.

Of the 34 hockey Olympians who won gold for country, only 26 could make it, and they were felicitated with cash awards of Rs. 2 lakh each.

Aware of the uphill task, Chetri's deputy Sardar Singh said they would take a step at a time.

"Each match will be as crucial as the final," he said on the team's agenda for the Olympics.