The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics by a year has not led to any changes in the Indian men's hockey team's targets for the marquee event, according to forward Akashdeep Singh. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the Olympics to be postponed from its original start date July 24 this year to July 23, 2021.
The pandemic has shown no signs of stemming since and experts have expressed doubts over whether the Olympics can be held next year too if there are no vaccinations available by that time.
"For us there are no changes in the target. We have to improve ourselves as much as possible and win a medal at the Olympics. In the lockdown, we all got to know each other a lot. We never spent so much time with each other like this. Whether it be seniors or juniors, we were all telling ourselves that this one year will go and we just need to keep ourselves focussed on the task at hand," the 25-year-old Akashdeep told IANS.
For now, however, the players in the national camp at the Sports Authority of India's (SAI) Bengaluru centre are just happy to be finally reunited with a hockey stick and a ball.
With the men's Asian Champions Trophy postponed to next year, the team is currently training with no competitions to keep as a target for 2020.
"We are looking at the Olympics as our target, there are no tournaments planned for this year. The players were eager to get back to training. Now after so many months we are training properly with the stick and the ball which is what all the players wanted. It's going well for now we are concentrating on the basics," he said.
"We are starting off slowly, no heavy training done as of yet. Just concentrating on the basics. Many of us are yet to get our rhythm back because we have not played for such a long time. It might take a week or about 10-15 days to get back there.
"We are training while maintaining social distancing in groups of about 12-14 players. We have been assigned different parts of the field to train in."
The circumstances created by the Covid-19 pandemic has put the players on course in an uncharted territory. They have been stuck in the Bengaluru campus for about four months due to the lockdown before being finally allowed to go home in mid-June.
The SAI called the players back to Bengaluru for the national camp in early August.
Six players, including captain Manpreet Singh had tested positive after arriving at the SAI campus.
Of them, Surender Kumar had been admitted to a nearby hospital on August 20 due to a complication that tends to arise during Covid-19 recovery.
Despite all, Akashdeep said that there is no apprehension among the players.
"Gym sessions have not started yet but that also might begin in the next two weeks. Those who had tested positive will join later after they are done with quarantine and recovery," he said.
The men's team had last played in February and since then there have been no scope for matches, domestic or international.
"I have never experienced such a big gap before in my career," said Akashdeep.
"I think this must be the first time in my career that I spent one and a half months at home. Otherwise, we would be at home for maybe a week or two before getting back to the field.
"It felt very good to go back home in June. It is important to spend time with the family. There also I was doing some basic conditioning. I was missing the sport though," he said.