Hockey: Draw against Poland in the Sydney Games still rankles, says Dilip Tirkey
New Delhi, July 13, 2021
Three-time Olympian and former captain Dilip Tirkey is hopeful that the Manpreet Singh-led Indian hockey side will have a podium finish at the Tokyo Olympics.
"I have great expectations from the current Indian men's hockey team. I think there is a lot of quality in the side, and they have a good chance of finishing on the podium at Tokyo. I would like to wish the team all the very best and I hope that they do well in the Olympics this year," the former defender said.
Writing for Hockey India's Flashback Series, Tirkey, who represented the country in the 1996 (Atlanta), 2000 (Sydney) and 2004 (Athens) Olympics, said that, though he has lot of memories of these Games, draw against Poland in Sydney still rankled because that deprived India of a place in the semi-finals.
He recalled his excitement at playing in his first Olympics at the Atlanta Games in 1996.
"Every athlete has a dream of becoming an Olympian and I got a chance of playing in the Olympics for the first time in 1996. We had some big players in our team at that time such as our captain Pargat Singh . I was very excited to play in the Olympics."
About the memories of the 2000 Games at Sydney, Tirkey said that the 1-1 draw against Poland will always remain a big regret for him and the Indian team.
"We performed very well in the league stages of the Games. We played well against Argentina, Australia, and Spain and we needed to defeat Poland to qualify for the semi-finals, but we couldn't do it," he said.
Revisiting that crucial match, he said, "The match against Poland got so difficult for us and it ended in a 1-1 draw in the end. We were leading 1-0 after I scored in the 53rd minute but Poland managed to score in the last few moments of the match.
"If we had beaten Poland, then we could have qualified for the semi-finals and after that anything could have happened. So that draw against Poland has remained as a sad memory for us."
Talking about his experience of just being at the Olympic Games, "There were many exciting moments for us at the 1996 Olympics. Tennis star Leander Paes also made history in the Olympics by winning a bronze medal.
"It was India's first Olympic in an individual event in a long time. We got to see US President Bill Clinton as well, who visited the Olympic Village. I went to watch the athletics and football events at the Olympics as well."