Indian men's hockey team entered the history books on Thursday as they defeated Germany by 5-4 in one of the most thrilling bronze medal matches ever played in Olympics. With this incredible win, India secured their first-ever medal in hockey after a long wait of 41 years. From the heartbreak of Sydney 2000 where India came agonizingly close to enter the semis to the huge disappointment of Beijing 2008 where the side failed to qualify for the event, the bronze medal at Tokyo 2020 becomes special when all these events are taken into consideration.
India went to Tokyo with a fairly young-looking squad with most of the players playing their maiden Olympics. There weren't any horrors of past for most of the players which allowed them to play a fearless brand of hockey. However, there were some players for whom this year's event meant way more than others can even imagine. One of them was India's experienced goalkeeper PR Sreejesh who has seen all the ups and downs of Indian hockey, having made his debut 15 years back.
Sorry for letting you down: Sreejesh after Rio 2016 failure
The 33-year-old is a legend of Indian hockey and is considered as one of the best goalkeepers in the world to have ever played this sport. Despite his consistent performances throughout his career, winning a medal in Olympics always remained a dream for Sreejesh. India had a very poor campaign at Rio 2016 when they somehow qualified for the quarter-finals finishing fourth in group stages before getting eliminated in the knockout round.
The Indian goalkeeper also came under scrutiny for conceding so many goals during the event and was absolutely heartbroken after failing to win an Olympic medal once again. Post the event, he had tweeted, "Rio over .... Pain remains ...sorry for letting you down," while apologizing to Indian fans.
Let me smile now: Sreejesh after Tokyo 2020 success
However, things turned dramatically for Sreejesh and India five years later as they stunned everyone with their performances at Tokyo Olympics 2020. After finishing second in group stages, they went on to defeat Great Britain in the quarters. Although India lost to Belgium in semis, they bounced back and defeated Germany to clinch a historic bronze medal.
The script was perfectly written for PR Sreejesh as the goalkeeper was the star performer for India in Tokyo. The 33-year-old made some breathtaking saves throughout their campaign. It was a fairytale finish as Sreejesh made a fantastic save in dying seconds of bronze medal match against Germany to secure his first-ever Olympic medal after years of heartbreak. The sense of relief and pain of past could be seen in his tweet where he stated, "Let me smile now."
It is often said that you are the master of your own destiny if you believe in yourself. This is one such example which proves that some stories are destined for happy ending only and only if you don't quit. Sreejesh never gave up on his dream despite all the setbacks and his smile in the end is just the perfect conclusion to this incredible story of grit and determination. Hopefully, this win would now start a new chapter and a new era for Indian hockey!