India's Hardik Singh reacts after scoring on Germany during the men's field hockey bronze medal match Tokyo Olympics 2020(AP) PREMIUM
India's Hardik Singh reacts after scoring on Germany during the men's field hockey bronze medal match Tokyo Olympics 2020(AP)

Tokyo 2020: Hardik ends a 41-year wait for family and country

Hardik, 22, scored a vital goal in the win over Germany. He comes from a hockey family. His grandfather Pritam Singh played in the Indian Navy team and later became a coach.
By Shalini Gupta, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON AUG 05, 2021 10:47 PM IST

When Gurmail Singh came home with hockey gold from the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the game still evoked a happy narrative in India. The eight-year wait for medal though must have felt odd for the most successful team in Olympic history.

Gurmail couldn’t have ever sensed that hockey’s global equations would alter so much that India’s fresh medal quest would last another 41 years. On Thursday, Gurmail, whose wife is Rajbir Kaur, captain of the victorious 1982 New Delhi Asian Games women’s team, was emotional.

As India upstaged Germany in the bronze medal playoff in Tokyo, Gurmail took out his Olympic gold from cabinet and wore it in celebration at his residence in Khusropur, near Jalandhar. That team member Hardik Singh was his late brother’s grandson filled him with pride.

“The boys did well. A new era has begun in Indian hockey. The team work they showed throughout paved the way for this finish. It reminded me of our 1980 feat. We too worked well as a team, backed each other. And my boy Hardik stood out. Puttar mera chaa gaya te naam roshan kitta saada (my boy was outstanding, he made the family proud).”

Hardik, 22, scored a vital goal in the win over Germany. He comes from a hockey family. His grandfather Pritam Singh played in the Indian Navy team and later became a coach. Hardik’s father Varinderjeet Singh, superintendent with Punjab Police, was also a hockey player and wanted Hardik to sustain the family tradition.

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“I and my father could not play for India. So, we worked on Hardik’s skills and prepared him for the India team. He learnt the sport in the village and then moved to Mohali and Jalandhar. My father died four years ago. He would have been thrilled to see Hardik get a medal in Olympics,” said Varinderjeet, who along with wife Kamaljeet Kaur was receiving a stream of guests.

Former India drag-flicker Jugraj Singh is Hardik’s uncle and he helped motivate the player at a low point in his career.

“I represented India in the sub-juniors, but opportunities at the top level never came. In 2017, I was on the verge of giving up my dream of playing for India and moving to Netherlands to play club hockey. My uncle made me rethink my decision. He has been a huge influence in my life,” the midfielder had said in an interview before the Olympics.

Hardik finally made his India debut at the Asian Champions Trophy and featured in the 2018 World Cup.

It was in 2012 that Hardik joined the Punjab Institute of Sports Academy at Mohali, where seasoned coach Sukhvir Singh Grewal, who has an eye for talent, trained Hardik for nearly five years before asking him to join Surjit Hockey Academy in Jalandhar.

“He was a sharp kid. He had hockey in his blood and had a passion to learn. He is light on his feet which makes him a dangerous player. He will have a very bright future,” said Grewal, a former India player.

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