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Hockey

Harmanpreet Singh: A drag-flicker par excellence

As the 22nd skipper of the Indian hockey team at the Olympics, Singh will be gunning for yet another podium-finish.

Harmanpreet Singh Hockey
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The setback of Rio aside, Harmanpreet Singh has had a stellar career. (File photo)

By

Kaustav Banerjee

Updated: 10 July 2024 4:30 AM GMT

Regarded as one of the vital cogs of the Indian defensive line, Harmanpreet Singh has been at the heart of India's hockey’s resurgence over the past few years.

Rock-solid in defense and possessing a drag-flick for a potent weapon, Harmanpreet is an integral member of the Indian squad. And after guiding the team to a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and a gold medal at the Asian Games 2023, the stalwart has now set his sights on Paris 2024.

An early start

Harmanpreet Singh was born to a farming family in the Jandiala Guru Township, a village in Amritsar, Punjab.

Working alongside his family in the farmlands as a young boy helped build his endurance levels. Tasked to drive a tractor, young Harmanpreet began wrestling with the gear stick, developing forearm strength. Interestingly, this would come in handy years later when he began wielding a hockey stick.

Soon thereafter, the young lad began impressing at junior games. Coaches began to take note and the realization dawned that with support, he could go the distance and one day, play for the country.

It was in 2011, when at the Surjeet Academy in Jalandhar that young Harmanpreet began learning the ropes to accelerate his growth. As things turned out, he made rapid strides.

The same year, he debuted for the junior Indian side at Sultan Johor Cup against New Zealand. Harmanpreet stayed the course and three years later, he would be adjudged the Player of the Tournament at that very tournament.

Senior debut

In 2015, after a successful spell with the India junior set-up, Harmanpreet would receive his maiden call to the senior side for a Test series against Japan. At the 2016 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, he would find the back of the net for the very first time.

Thereafter, there was no looking back. With consistent performances, Harmanpreet would find a spot in the Olympics squad for Rio. But after India failed to deliver the goods at Rio, he was dropped from the side heading to the Asian Champions Trophy.

Undeterred, Harmanpreet made his presence felt at the 2016 Junior World Cup for India, scoring three goals.

He was now on course for a comeback.

And slowly but surely, Harmanpreet cemented his place in the Indian Senior national side and became a penalty corner specialist. In the 2021-2022 season of the FIH Pro League, he would score his 100th international goal, a momentous milestone in his career.

After 200 appearances and 150 goals, the captain's armband was handed over to him.

In 2023, he led the team in the Men’s Hockey World Cup. Also, under his leadership, India bagged gold at the Asian Champions Trophy 2023. And as if to serve as an icing on the cake, he finished the 2023 Asian Games with 13-goals and topped the goal-scoring charts.

As the Indian men's hockey team now heads to Paris, the onus is yet again on Harmanpreet Singh, to secure a podium-finish and more importantly, go the distance.

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