Ajit Pal Singh predicts record medal haul for India at London

India’s hockey hero Ajit Pal Singh is hesitant when asked to compare his responsibility as Chef de Mission for the London Olympics-bound Indian contingent with that when he led the national team at the 1975 hockey World Cup in Malaysia. But he sure wishes that the outcome of his latest assignment is as successful as the World Cup-winning campaign in Kuala Lumpur 37 years ago.

India best drag-flicker Sandeep Singh waves the national flag after winning the men’s field hockey finals against France to qualify for London 2012 earlier this year. Pic/AFP

“That win (World Cup) was a long time ago… it’s an old story now. This job (chef de mission) is totally different, but definitely I would like myself and India to taste success here too,” Ajit Pal told MiD DAY from Jallandhar yesterday as the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) kicked off the 100 day countdown to the mega event.

Abhinav Bindra after winning gold in the men’s 10m air rifle shooting finals at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Not nervous
Though Ajit Pal is yet to get a detailed blue print from the Indian Olympic Association on his exact role as chief of the Indian contingent, the 65-year-old is least nervous about it. Instead, he’s excited. “I’ve represented India at three Olympics and know the kind of pressure that players will be under. For once, I won’t be under that kind of pressure so I’m not nervous at all. The IOA have scheduled a meeting on April 20, where the intricacies of my role will be discussed at length,” said Ajit Pal, who is the first Indian sportsperson to be named Chef de Mission, ending a painful era of politicians and diplomats being at the helm.

Vikas Gowda, who currently holds the World No 1 ranking in discus throw, after winning silver at CWG 2010.  Pics/AFP, Getty Images 

The hockey ace is also glad to glance at the line-up of athletes that will represent the country in London from July 27 to August 12. “Names like Abhinav Bindra (shooting), Sandeep Singh (hockey), Vikas Gowda (discus throw), etc are world-class. They are all currently training in full steam in preparation for the Games.

More medals
“In Beijing (2008) we won three individual Olympic medals and I’m sure in London that number will increase. This contingent has the potential to make history,” added Ajit Pal. The conversation could definitely not end without touching about his favourite sport. And the former India centre-half was upbeat about national hockey coach Michael Nobbs and his boys too.

“I was there when we won the Olympic qualifiers tournament in New Delhi recently. The boys played really well. Obviously, the level of competition in London will be different, much higher, but then this team has it in them to raise their game too. Sandeep and Sardar Singh are two of the best hockey players in the world. Indian hockey should do well in London in a little over a 100 days from now,” he signed off.

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