'India badly needs to win hockey medal at London'

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London Olympics
New Delhi, Jul 7: Veteran Indian hockey mid-fielder Ignace Tirkey felt the country badly needed to win an Olympic medal to revive interest in the sport. Hockey is a sport which India had ruled with elan once but has gone for a steep decline ever since. "Our last major medal came way back in 1980 when we had won the Olympic gold at the Moscow Games. It is a huge gap," Ignace, an Olympics-bound player, said. India's Olympic fortunes dipped to such a low that they even failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games, something which was unthinkable in the past.

Ignace said a medal at the upcoming London Games would do wonders for the sport at a time when cricket rules the roost. The 31-year-old tribal player from Odisha said India should not go to the Olympics for just making up the numbers. He is the only other player, apart from Sandeep Singh, in the Indian hockey squad to have played in an Olympics before. London will probably be his last shot at the glory.

"Playing for India in two Olympics has been a great honour for me but at the end of the day, it is the medal which actually matters," the veteran of 246 international caps said. Both Sandeep and Ignace had represented India in the 2004 Athens Games where the team had finished seventh.

Praising Michael Nobbs of Australia, under whose guidance India managed to gain an entry at the London Games, Ignace said, "Michael has brought back the original attacking style of hockey. He himself keeps a low profile and treats the players well. He has transformed the side in a magnificent way." Ignace also added that the coach and the physiologist, David John, have helped the players gain a high fitness level as well.

India, which is in Pool B with some tough sides, is currently playing Spain on a blue turf in a series of matches as preparation for the Games. They will also play a three-nation tournament before heading for the big occasion. "We have to be fully prepared for the Olympics. No team can be taken casually in modern hockey," Ignace said.

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