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PR Sreejesh Aspires To Be Indian Hockey Team's Chief Coach By 2036

Indian men’s hockey team goalkeeper PR Sreejesh doesn’t want to predict his future at the moment and will take a call on his retirement after the Paris Olympics but the veteran custodian aspires to be chief coach of the national side by 2036. Sreejesh, who will be featuring in his fourth Olympics this year, refused to believe that the upcoming edition in Paris could be his last outing in the sporting extravaganza. He remains optimistic but said once he calls it quits, he definitely wants to give back to the game in one or the other way.

“For me, this Olympics is really important because at this age it is really hard for me to talk about next four year cycle. From the last Olympics, I was only taking one year at a time. The rest decision comes after the Olympics,” Sreejesh told PTI in an interview.

“I don’t think so (it will be his last Olympics) because when you are 36 and doing a beep test of 20.8 , I think it’s quite good.

“(But) after my career I will take a break for sure. I will need time to transfer myself from a player to any role, as a coach, assistant coach or goalkeeping coach. My plan is for long time. My plan is for 2036 or 2040.

“I want to improve myself, I want to see myself as a coach or a chief coach of the Indian national hockey team in that time because by that time I will be more experienced. I want to be a part an Indian independent coaching staff of the national hockey team,” he elaborated about his plans.

Sreejesh, who captained the national team at the 2016 Rio Olympics, played a key role in India’s historic bronze medal-winning feat at the Tokyo Games and he believes the current side has the potential to produce better results in Paris.

“The goal everytime for an athlete is to win a gold medal in the Olympics but you need to consider the realistic factors. All the top 6 teams in the world are now beating each other. We have got an open pool where anyone can beat anyone,” he said.

“I believe that we have got the potential to finish on the podium for sure but you can’t be overconfident.” Renowned mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton, who was with the squad in Hangzhou Asian Games, will be working with the Indian players in the run upto the Olympics and will there in Paris too, a fact confirmed by chief coach Craig Fulton.

And Sreejesh feels Upton’s presence will be of great help for the players to deal with the “mental confusion”.

“The Olympics is not a normal platform. There a lot of things, it’s a pressure venue, it’s a magical world, it’s a festival. It is a kind of situation which can fascinate any player. Paddy was a part of the cricket team when we won the World Cup in 2011, he is an experienced person who can help us to choose wisely and clear our mental confusion.” India will travel to Perth next month for a five-Test series against Australia and Sreejesh believes the tour holds great significance.

“It was a good phase (India leg of Pro League), we enjoyed and learned from it. We are now moving forward because it’s a process towards Olympics. We tried a lot of new things. Pro League is sort of a model exam before the big call.

“Most of the teams we played here whom we will meet in the Olympics. We wanted to try some things and we wanted to see how they react to that. Second thing how other teams reacted to our changes and lastly how the players reacted to the pressure,” he said.

“The upcoming Australia tour will be the last kind of preparation where everyone will get an opportunity. Overall it’s a sort of rehearsal before the Olympics.” After the tour of Australia, India will travel to Antwerp, Belgium for the second leg of Pro League in May, which will be their last round of preparations before the Olympics.

“That’s the last phase. It really means you are going through all the question papers before the board exam. After May we get a small break and in June we will have an entire month to analyse ourself to get better before the Olympics,” Sreejesh concluded.

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