Belgium's Alexander Hendrickx(AP) PREMIUM
Belgium's Alexander Hendrickx(AP)

Belgian drag-flicker Hendrickx takes Tokyo by storm

Hendrickx, who scored three of Belgium’s five goals on Tuesday to take his total tally to 14 in Tokyo—way ahead of Australia’s Blake Grovers, who has six—is simply adding more layers to his stature as the world’s finest drag flicker.
By Avishek Roy, Tokyo
PUBLISHED ON AUG 03, 2021 11:16 PM IST

Belgium’s Alexander Hendrickx is on a rampage in Tokyo.

He came into the quarterfinal against India, with 11 goals, more than anyone else in Tokyo 2020, and proved yet again his ability to change the game with a single shot—the drag flick.

Hendrickx, who scored three of Belgium’s five goals on Tuesday to take his total tally to 14 in Tokyo—way ahead of Australia’s Blake Grovers, who has six—is simply adding more layers to his stature as the world’s finest drag flicker. If Belgium, the world champions, now become Olympic champions, it will be because of Hendrickx’s fearsome ability to score.

“I have already flicked thousands of balls in my life, so I don’t think too much about it and don’t take any pressure,” Hendrickx said after the match. “I focus on myself and my technique and try not to get bothered by the opponent or the situation. I know where I am going to put it.”

At the 2016 Rio Games, Hendrickx was yet to become the force he is now, and was in the reserves. Belgium lost to Argentina partly because of poor penalty corner conversion.

“That was the turning point for me,” he said. “It was nice to see the guys taking medals but on the other side not being able to play was heart-breaking. I told myself I never want to be a reserve player again, so I worked really hard on my hockey and drag flicks and I am really proud that I could guide the team to the final today.”

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A team man, Hendrickx was pointed to the well-oiled penalty corner machinery of his team as the reason for his flood of goals.

“In penalty corners, you have to strive for perfection at each step—in the injection, with the stop, and only then comes the flick,” he said. “I score only when everything comes together.”

Belgium coach Shane Mcleod, who has been with the team since 2015 and seen Hendrickx’s transformation, said that with the drag-flicker has an intimidating effect on opposing teams because of his speed and accuracy.

“In the last four-five years, he's committed a massive amount of his time to develop his craft, and you can see it now,” Mcleod said. “I cannot exaggerate the amount of work and effort that goes into something that he appears to make so simple.”

By the time Belgium came into the world championship in Bhubaneswar in 2018, Hendrickx was ready. He finished the tournament as the top goalscorer with seven goals. In Tokyo, he is looking even more unstoppable.

“He is really world-class and with him being there we know that we always have a chance,” said teammate Briels Thomas. “It was very tense today in the middle but he makes it look so easy.”

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