BHUBANESWAR: There are very few who could rival Dilip Tirkey’s achievements in and commitment to hockey in Odisha. The humble man from the dusty village of Saunamora in Sundargarh represented India in Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004) Olympic Games, and gave his all. Yet, the long-cherished dream of an Olympic medal remained elusive.
Today, he is an emotional man. As if the burden of not getting a medal in the Olympics is gone. “We had forgotten medals when the revolution of modern hockey came about. That ghost is buried. What we could not achieve for over 40 years, these boys have. They have given us back our lost pride,” a jubilant Dilip said.
That’s how great sportsmen are. They live through the achievements of their future generations, revel in their success and find redemption too. He remembers the highs and the lows. There were years when India could not qualify for Olympics and even if it did, only to end last on the list. “Now, we are ranked third and brought the Bronze medal,” said the former captain of Indian team who believes this historic win will propel the game and inspire generations.
“This brings new hope to our youngsters who are playing hockey, want to make a career out of it and represent India. They can now believe that they can be successful in modern fast-paced hockey and excel at World Cups and Olympics,” he told TNIE. Dilip says as modern hockey changed after 1980, India failed to keep pace with its pace and style. The demands of training and fitness programmes were a challenge.
“We also faced a challenge because we did not have drag-flickers. Holland had Taeke Takema. Pakistan had Sohail Abbas. There was a brief point when we had Sandeep Singh, Jugraj Singh and VR Raghunath who did their best but that was it. Now, have world class dragflickers in Rupinderpal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh,” he points out.
A key reason behind India’s success is conversion from short corners which is very important in modern hockey. Dilip says India did exceedingly well with its short corners. The hockey icon also had a special word for Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for his support to hockey. “Odisha became the sponsor when the national teams did not have anyone to back them. The State government hosted the World Cup, brought back the craze of the game,” he said.