The ‘Olympic Rings’ tattoo on Sandeep Singh's forearm keeps reminding the drag-flicker of the pain he suffered after being dropped from the Beijing Olympics Games qualifiers. Perhaps, had he been there, India could have qualified for the 2008 Games. But that is history.
On Sunday, he became the highest goal-scorer in the tournament, slamming five of the eight goals as India crushed France to qualify for the London Games. A dream fulfilled, the Olympic Rings will now keep the lanky defender motivated for the mega event.
It's been a history of ups and downs for the Shahbad player, who got hit on the back by a stray bullet just before the 2006 World Cup. Things looked gloomy for the goal-machine as he recovered slowly, and it seemed he would not be able to hold the hockey stick again.
Never say die
But it was his never-say-die attitude which helped him fight back and manfully face the grind of returning to the national squad. Today, he is the face of Indian hockey. Much maligned for his temperament, Sandeep has shown that he is the most potent goal-scorer even after returning from a career-threatening injury.
After being part of the silver and bronze medal winning teams in the Commonwealth and Asian Games, respectively, Sandeep started 2011 on a sour note. He skipped the national camp for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup to play in the Belgian professional league. The fallout was that he was not considered for the prestigious Malaysian tournament.
Only a written apology soothed Hockey India and he was allowed to join the national camp for the Asia Cup in China in June. The rebel in him came to the fore again when, in the middle of the camp, he along with four players, went to attend a WSH press conference and later left the camp. This time, the fall was even bigger. HI banned him for two years, but later revoked it after issuing a stern warning.With Sandeep playing a pivotal role in the team's qualification, he has once again proved his worth. Next stop, London.