Fitness is Indian team's biggest asset, can break medal drought in Tokyo: Dhanraj Pillay
Pillay represented India in four consecutive Olympics from 1992 to 2004
An Olympic medal missing from his own cupboard, Indian hockey great Dhanraj Pillay believes the supremely fit team going for the upcoming Tokyo Games have what it takes to finish on the podium and end the medal drought which his generation of players could not.
Pillay, who represented India in four consecutive Olympics from 1992 to 2004, said fitness is the key asset of the Manpreet Singh-led side going into the Summer Games that begins on July 23 in Tokyo.
"I am very confident they will do it this time. They have been doing well in the last five years. Fitness is their biggest asset. In those days, we didn't have the kind of support system they have now," the 52-year-old Pillay was quoted as saying in Hockey India's Flashback Series.
"This team has done wonders, won hearts of millions of fans with their recent performances, particularly at the Champions Trophy (in 2016 and 2018) and the World League Finals (2015 and 2017). I know they can do it this time," he added.
Unable to meet the team personally because of the strict Covid-19 protocols, Pillay has sent letter to Manpreet and women's skipper Rani Rampal, wishing both the teams good luck and success in Tokyo.
"Since I am also in Bangalore, I would have loved to meet them in person but due to protocols, I did not. I sent them a letter wishing them the very best and I wanted to convey to them that they should be careful about their diet when they are in the Olympic village.
"I wanted to convey to them that they should enjoy the best part of their athletic life by being calm and relaxed," he said.
"To both men and women's team, I want to say, don't think about the podium finish. Go match-by-match and stick together as one unit right until the last day, the last match of the tournament."
Pillay advised both the Tokyo-bound teams not to think too far ahead.
"I think the mistake we did at every Olympic Games was that we went with the mind set of aiming for the final instead of taking it match-by-match," he said.
"Though we had the best teams each time, things did not materialise for us to finish on the podium."
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