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Sreejesh opens up on 'dark time' of his career, Andre Agassi's role in his comeback

30 May, 2024 19:55 IST|Sakshi Post

New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) India won their first Olympic medal in men's field hockey since 1972 -- a bronze medal at Tokyo 2020. A key member of India's historic triumph, goalkeeper PR Sreejesh has opened up about India’s medal win in Tokyo, his injuries, and the struggles he had faced while returning to fitness.

In a conversation with Cricket World Cup winner Dinesh Karthik on JioCinema’s ‘Get Set Gold’, Sreejesh revealed the tough journey he had to endure between Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, marked by a career-threatening knee injury in 2017.

“In a tournament in 2017, Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, we played against Australia, and I had a collision with one of their players. I suffered an ACL, MCL, and meniscus tear on my right knee. The next day, I took an MRI scan for the injury and the coach came and said, ‘Sree, it's a grade 3 injury.’ Grade 3 means you can't rehab it, you need to go for a reconstruction surgery. Then, as long as I knew about the ACL injury, it's a career-threatening one,” Sreejesh said.

Sreejesh dealt with many struggles while returning to fitness, especially with the worry that he would be replaced in his absence. But the birth of his son led to a shift in mindset, as he told Karthik.

“At that time, I was the captain of the team. Everything was going smoothly, but suddenly this happened. It was a dark time. Suddenly, you're nowhere and you have a lot of negativities in your mind. And you know how the media is, in one tournament, where the other goalkeeper plays well, they'll replace you. They'll forget you, and then start writing that, ‘We've got a new wall of Indian hockey.’

"Then I thought, ‘What should I do now?’ Luckily, I was blessed with a boy at that time. So, I spent that first month with him and that was a good distraction for me. Then I started to read. I read Open by Andre Agassi. I read that he went through so many injuries and came back to become world number one. Then somewhere, I felt like, okay, you can also do that," the goalkeeper said.

Tokyo 2020 led to India’s biggest field hockey achievement in decades, with Sreejesh at the centre of it. He shared his thoughts on the emotional moment when they finally brought Olympic glory back to Indian hockey.

“It was like a relief. They scored, we scored, that was like a tennis match… In the last few seconds, the technical table made an error and the stopwatch stopped. But the umpire asked us to play on. There was a penalty corner with six seconds left. Then it's all about, the goalkeeper…... I was like, we got one more match, we got one more chance to win a medal.

"And before the match, in the team meeting, Graham (Reid), our team coach, had said, ‘Everyone stand on their chairs. Just close your eyes and feel it like somebody is putting that bronze medal.’ Everyone got goosebumps at that moment. You feel, okay, we are getting it and just go for it. If I close my eyes, I can still feel that moment. I was like, okay, we got a medal, what is next? The team is capable of winning a medal in Paris, but the journey towards that, it's not easy. The one who takes advantage on the day will be the real champion," he said

Sreejesh is expected to represent India in men’s hockey in Paris 2024. India are slotted in Group B with Belgium, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, and Ireland, as they hope to make a deep run into the medal rounds.

Disclaimer: This story has not been edited by the Sakshi Post team and is auto-generated from syndicated feed.

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