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Gurjant recalls hockey journey from Batala’s bylanes to Tokyo Olympics

Gurjant Singh. Photo: Hockey India

Bengaluru, July 6 (MNN) Indian hockey forward Gurjant Singh, slated to make his Olympic debut this month, still vividly remembers how he began his hockey journey from the bylanes of Batala, an industrial town 41 km from his birthplace in Amritsar in Punjab.

The 2016 Junior World Cup player, who is among the five forwards named in the 16-member Indian squad, said he was fascinated when he saw his cousins play in Batala.

“No one played hockey in my village. I was drawn to the game when I saw my cousins play in Batala,” the FIH Junior Men’s World Cup hero told Hockey India.

Soon Gurjant shifted to the Chandigarh Hockey Academy to hone his skills. His impressive domestic circuit feats ensured he was picked in the Junior India core group that trained at SAI, Bengaluru for the 2016 FIH Junior Men’s World Cup.

This was the stepping stone he was vying for. “After winning a lot of tournaments for Punjab and Haryana, I was selected in the Indian junior hockey team for the U-21 tour to Netherlands in 2015. I was also part of the team that played the Australian Hockey League following which I was selected to play for India in the Junior World Cup in Lucknow.”

Since his early days when he was coming up the ranks in the junior circuit, Gurjant was known as a big game player due to his knack to make telling contributions on the big occasion.

He solidified this reputation as he opened the scoring for India in the semi-finals and final of the 2016 FIH Junior Men’s World Cup.

“I will never forget December 18, 2016. That is the day we won the Junior World Cup title and so far, it’s been the greatest feat in my career. It was after this great win that people started noticing me,” said the hockey striker.

“Chief Coach Graham Reid expected me to work on my defence. He insists that good defence begins with the forwards and I really paid a lot of attention to improve my off-ball skills over the past year,” said the young man with 47 international caps.

Gurjant now wants to make the most of the opportunity of being member of the national team.

“The team is just focused on a podium finish. The recent experience of playing against Germany, Great Britain and Argentina is definitely going to help us when we compete against them at the Olympics.”

“I missed the Asian Games and World Cup due to injuries. I had to sit back and follow the team from home and that was really painful. But I am hopeful I will make this opportunity count in Tokyo, and we are all set for the challenge,” Gurjant said.

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