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Indian hockey legend Ajit Pal Singh revives old memories

With less than a month left for the Tokyo Olympic Games to be held, while Indian athletes are busy practicing to perform better, former hockey players are relishing their nostalgia. Indian hockey legend and former India captain Ajit Pal Singh has reminisced about his Olympic debut and India’s consecutive bronze medal wins at the 1968 Mexico and 1972 Munich Olympic Games.

Ajit Pal recalled the fourth part of Hockey India flashback series, I was selected for the coaching camp of 1968 Olympic Games, then I was in college and representing my home town Punjab. I was the youngest player in the camp and I think I was lucky enough to finally get to play in the 1968 Olympic Games.

The former captain said, after losing the opening match against New Zealand, there was some reshuffle in the team and I was brought in as centre-half. My first Olympic match was against West Germany, one of the strongest teams at the time. The night before the match, my stomach was burning, the pressure on me at that time cannot be imagined. We had already lost the match and we had to stand against a strong team. I handled the pressure very well and contributed to the team’s 2-1 win. I never looked back from there, and eventually played all the matches at the Mexico Olympics.

Ajit Pal, 74, said, “We won every match for the rest of our league stage, but unfortunately we lost to Australia in the semi-finals and ended the campaign with a bronze medal, so it was really something special.” When you know you are going to play for the first time, play all the big matches and come back with a bronze medal, I think it was a big achievement for me as far as the Olympics is concerned.

It is noteworthy that three-time World Cup medalist (Bronze in 1971, Silver in 1973, Gold in 1975) and India’s only World Cup winning captain Ajit Pal was also part of the team led by Harmek Singh that won the bronze medal.