‘365 days more to prepare’: India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh on life amid lockdown and road to Tokyo Olympics

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Participating for the primary time on the Pro League in 2020, India’s hockey crew discovered quick good fortune. A win over the Netherlands in January was once adopted by way of a win over the World Champions Belgium in February. India additionally made a sensational comeback towards Australia in the similar month, and the crew was once having a look all set for the Tokyo Olympics which was once set to start in July.

But the Covid-19 pandemic became the carrying calendar the wrong way up. The Pro League video games had been stopped. Soon after, the Tokyo Olympics had been postponed for a 12 months. In March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced a national lockdown. At the time, the Indian hockey groups, together with the training group of workers, had to stay throughout the SAI middle in Bengaluru, the place they’d been coaching earlier than.

India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh who had to spend over 3 months clear of spouse and children amid such remarkable occasions recollects the life at SAI middle amid lockdown. Speaking to Hindustan Times in an unique interview, Sreejesh additionally shared some particular quarantine reminiscences that he would cherish ceaselessly.

With the Tokyo Olympics set to happen subsequent 12 months, Sreejesh additionally spread out on the plans to get ready for the road forward.

Excerpts:

Q) You and the remainder of the crew had been at SAI middle when the lockdown was once first introduced in March. Tell us about the ones days?

“In the beginning, it was difficult because we were in a competitive state at the time. We were training mode, so starting was a bit tough. But overall, it did not make a huge difference because all of us were at SAI center and we were training together. When the lockdown happened, we were allowed to roam around the center in small groups to do routine exercises. The team was together, so it helped us in spending more together with each other, as we could not go for any outing or anything because of the lockdown. It was a bit tough, but we managed to make most of the time.”

Q) What courses you discovered all through the lockdown length which can can help you to your non-public and skilled life?

“We spent most of the lockdown period analyzing our opponents. During the tournaments and training period, it becomes really difficult to focus everything together. But during this time, we did a post-mortem of most of our matches, and what areas we can improve, and what mistakes we could rectify.

“On the personal front, I read a lot of books and watched a lot of documentaries which helped me to look at myself in a different way. When you look at other sportspersons and their journeys, you get some kind of inclination which you can apply in your career and in your performance.”

Q) How did you stay your self sure and motivated being clear of circle of relatives amid such an remarkable time?

“I think, being a parent, my first priority was to keep them safe. Keep my kids safe, my family safe. I was a bit worried about my father, he is over 60 years old, and he is a heart patient. I was a bit worried, as the news was suggesting that the disease put kids and senior citizens more at risk. Then, the situation in my village was really under control. So, I felt a bit relaxed and it helped me remain calm.

“If I had to return home, I was really concerned that I do not want to become a carrier of the virus. Because I had to travel from Bengaluru to Cochin to return home. So, I felt, as long as I am in a safer environment, and my family is in a safe environment, I am happy to be here. The situation in Kerala was under control, it helped me to stay calm.”

Q) How was once that second while you in the end reached house after over 3 months at SAI middle in Bengaluru?

“It was a good moment. I was really happy to meet my family. But what happened was that when I first reached home, I had to be under quarantine, as per the protocols. As per the state rules, I had to spend 14 days in room quarantine, and then further 14 days in-home quarantine. The first 14 days were really tough, you are at home, and you cannot mingle with your family. It was good that at least I could at least see them from my window.

“But then, I was able to spend some quality time with my family, and my parents. Before, whenever I used to go home, there used to be a lot of visitors, and I would be meeting a few people, doing some work, so I would never get quality time with my parents, and especially with my kids. This time, it was more free-minded time. I enjoyed this quarantine a lot from that aspect.”

Q) So, any particular reminiscences from this quarantine which you’re going to have in mind ceaselessly?

“Oh, there are loads. We used to wake early. I used to wake up early and work out. My kids would create a situation to wake me up every morning, even though they know I am asleep. ‘Daddy, can you open this box, daddy, how can you use this function on mobile’. They make excuses to wake me up’. Secondly, playing ‘haathi’ with my kids, the kids game. It was a really good experience. I have never done that. When my daughter was born, I was busy with the 2014 schedule. Then, all the Commonwealth Games preparation, and tournaments, and every time I would reach home, I was busy. So, I really bonded well with my kids this time around.”

Q) How vital is it to stay have compatibility amid this loose time?

“It’s a good thing we are getting another year for the Tokyo Olympics. I mean, definitely, when we heard first that Tokyo Olympics will get postponed, we were a bit disappointed. We were in a good situation. The Pro League games helped us gain a lot of confidence and we were looking towards the Olympic games. But Covid-19 disrupted everything. So, we thought about what is next? We should look at everything with a positive outlook. So, when I look at the Olympics next year, all I think is that we have another year to train. We got a year more to train ourselves and make sure we are in perfect shape for the Olympics. It is a task that our Olympic campaign is starting now, so we have another 365 days to train and get into shape.

“I, personally, keep smaller goals for me. I always try to next tournament and perform better, so I will be in shape till the next Olympics. So, my routine has changed. I am looking after my fitness and I am looking after my diet. Whenever I get a chance to speak to other goalkeepers, it also gives me confidence.”

Q) Would it’s tricky for gamers to go back to the similar aggressive stage as they had been earlier than the lockdown?

“This scenario is with everyone in the world. Everyone is facing the same situation as us. I think it will definitely take some time to get that international level of playing. We are at least three months away from hockey, and four-five months of any competition. We are expecting our next tournament to be in November, which would be the Asian Championship. But I don’t think there is a need to take it as a negative aspect. We should take it as a personal challenge, so that we can work our own matches, and analyse our matches, on recognising which are the areas where we need to improve.

“Secondly, when we get on the field, we can utilise that homework and train accordingly. In one or two months, we can return to the same systematic manner of training.”

Q) Will the announcement of the FIH Pro League time table for subsequent 12 months can help you get ready for Tokyo Olympics?

“Yeah, definitely. The best part is that FIH has announced the Pro League schedule and Olympic schedule. So, it has given us more confidence that we already know this tournament is going to happen, so we need to be mentally and physically prepared. It has given us more spirits and energy to work really hard from now onwards. It is one of the things that will help us look forward. Without a clear goal in sight, we cannot be prepared for the future. Keeping that in mind, we will begin the campaign.”

Q) So, the objective continues to be to win a medal on the Olympics?

“Definitely, 100 percent. For an athlete, an Olympic medal is the ultimate dream. We just want to be on the podium and grab the medal. Unfortunately, I have missed it two times, but this time, I want everyone to give their 100 percent to make that possible. And we can do that. When you are the top fourth-ranked team in the world, it’s just a matter of 0.1 percent extra. I definitely think we can realistically think of a good position at the Olympics.”

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