Hockey defender Varun Kumar said on Monday that a “one-on-one chat” with skipper Manpreet Singh before the Tokyo Olympic Games campaign pumped him up mentally to go all out against the rivals in the historic campaign.

India won bronze after a gap of 41 years at the quadrennial Games.

“It really helped that captain Manpreet had a long chat with me and it pumped me up mentally. Manpreet has been a big influence in my career from a very young age as we played in the same academy and him talking to me made a lot of difference. I stopped beating myself up for not being good enough to make the 16-member squad. I started focusing on how I can make this opportunity count and deliver when the team needs me,” stated Varun.

Varun Kumar was not part of the 16-member squad announced by Hockey India for the Olympics, but when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allowed hockey teams expand to 18 players, Simranjeet and Varun made the grade.

When dragflicker and defender Varun didn’t make the 16-member team, he said he was “disappointed”.

Looking back, Varun says, “When the squad for the Olympics was announced, my name was not part of the 16-member squad. I still remember that day well and I was disappointed. But after a few days when IOC allowed hockey teams to expand to 18 players, Simranjeet and I were called up. It came as a huge relief but somewhere at the back of my mind I was still upset about not making it to the final 16 and I really wanted to prove myself.”

What followed in Tokyo is now part of history, as the team clinched bronze. Varun played a key role in India’s 3-1 win against Argentina in the pool stage as he scored the first goal of the match. He was in the backline and impressed with his performance every time he was called up.

“It was a fantastic experience in Tokyo. Winning the bronze and standing on the podium along with my teammates is perhaps the best moment of my life. Now my priority will be to improve in every aspect. We have had a good break after the Olympics and we are all waiting to return to camp in October,” said Varun.

–IANS

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