The Asian Games held at Incheon will forever remain etched in the hearts of Bharat. It was a momentous occasion that brought glory and pride to our nation, especially in field hockey. Let’s journey back to 2014 when Indian hockey began its ascent from the shadows of past failures.
For decades, Bharat had been a part of every hockey tournament at the Asian Games since its introduction in 1958. However, success had been a rare visitor, with victory occurring only twice, both times in Bangkok (1966 and 1998). The story was one of missed opportunities and unfulfilled dreams, with an ignominious low in 2006, where Bharat failed to win any kind of medal in men’s hockey.
The year 2014 marked a significant turning point. Not only did the rules of the game change, but so did the very nature of the playing field. No longer was it the gruelling 70-minute match; it was now divided into four quarters with short but crucial breaks. The penalty shootout replaced the traditional five penalty strokes, adding a new layer of thrill to the game.
Despite facing a setback against Pakistan in the league stage, Indian hockey squad blazed a triumphant trail into the knockout rounds. In a tense encounter, they overcame South Korea with a score of 1-0, earning a spot in the finals. Once again, their arch-rivals Pakistan stood in their path, setting the stage for an epic showdown.
The final match was an intense affair, with Muhammad Rizwan Sr. drawing first blood for Pakistan in the 3rd minute. However, Kothajit Singh swiftly responded with a field goal just before halftime. The teams were locked in a fierce battle, and it became evident that the match was destined for a tiebreaker.
This moment held immense significance for goalkeeper Parattu Raveendran Sreejesh. He had witnessed Bharat’s heartbreaking defeat as a reserve goalkeeper at the 2012 London Olympics. Now, he stood as the last line of defense, facing the challenge of a lifetime.
Sreejesh rose to the occasion, displaying nerves of steel. He thwarted two critical attempts by the Pakistani side. On the other end of the field, Indian strikers unleashed a barrage of attacks. The atmosphere was electric, the tension palpable. In the end, Bharat emerged victorious, clinching the gold medal with a score of 4-2 in the penalty shootout.
This triumph was a defining moment for Indian hockey. It marked the resurgence of a sport that had endured years of disappointment. The victory instilled confidence and belief in our hockey team that they could compete at the highest levels.
Subsequently, our hockey team’s journey has been nothing short of remarkable. They have consistently raised the bar, achieving success on the international stage. Whether it was the FIH World League, the now-defunct FIH Champions Trophy, or the grand stage of the Tokyo Olympics, our team has continued to shine.
The Tokyo Olympics, in particular, will always hold a special place in our hearts. The team defied the odds and brought an end to a 41-year-long medal drought. Despite trailing 1-3 initially, they displayed unwavering determination and teamwork, ultimately defeating Germany 5-4 in a nail-biting contest.
The Asian Games in Incheon in 2014 marked a pivotal moment in the history of Indian hockey. It was a time when our team, against all odds, rose to the occasion and clinched the gold medal. This victory not only revived the hopes and dreams of a nation but also ignited a resurgence in Indian hockey. It was a moment that paved the way for further success on the global stage, including the historic triumph at the Tokyo Olympics.
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