Padma shri Ajit Pal Singh gets nostalgic about his dream Olympic debut at the 1968 Mexico Games
Jul 02, 2021 00:38 [IST]
Last Update: Jul 02, 2021 00:38 [IST]
Indian hockey stalwart and former Captain Ajit Pal Singh got
nostalgic as he recalled his dream Olympic debut and India's back-to-back
Bronze medal-winning feat at the 1968 Mexico and 1972 Munich Olympic Games.
"I was picked for the coaching camp of the 1968 Olympic Games,
while I was in college, representing my home state Punjab. I would say, I was
the youngest player at the camp, and I feel I was very lucky that I ultimately
got a chance to play in the 1968 Olympic Games," recalled Ajit Pal Singh.
The 74-year-old further added, "Having lost the opening match
against New Zealand, there was some reshuffling in the team, and I was brought
in as the centre-half. My first Olympic match turned out to be against West
Germany, who were one of the strongest teams during that time. I had
butterflies in my stomach the night before the match, so you can imagine the
pressure, we had already lost the first match, and we were supposed to pit
against a quality side. I would say, I handled the pressure pretty well, and ended
up contributing to the team's 2-1 win. I never looked back from there, and
eventually played all the matches at the Mexico Olympics."
The Indian team led by two Captains, Prithipal Singh and Gurbux
Singh after losing their first match to New Zealand, went on to win each of
their remaining league stage matches against teams like West Germany (2-1),
Mexico (8-0), Spain (1-0), Belgium (2-1), Japan (5-0 walkout) and East Germany
(1-0), but lost to Australia (1-2) in the Semi-Final. For the first time in the
Olympics history, India didn't feature in the Final of the quadrennial Games.
However, the Indian team didn't return empty-handed as they beat West Germany
2-1 to clinch the Bronze medal.
"We went on to win each of our remaining league stage matches,
but unfortunately, we lost to Australia in the Semi-Final and finished the
campaign with a Bronze Medal. So, that was something really special, you know
going for the first time, playing all the big matches, and coming back even
with a Bronze medal, I think was a great achievement as far as the Olympics is
concerned," said the former centre-half.
A three-time World Cup medallist (Bronze in '71, Silver in '73, Gold
in '75) and India's only World Cup-winning Captain, Ajit Pal was also a part of
the Harmek Singh-led side that clinched the Bronze medal at the 1972 Munich
Games, which was India's 10th consecutive medal at the marquee event.