The youngster from Punjab performed brilliantly in the tournament. 

When Indian men’s hockey team drag-flicker and defender Varun Kumar didn’t make the final team of 16 members, he was evidently disappointed. But when the IOC allowed hockey teams to expand their roster to 18 members and Varun’s name featured in the team.

Looking back, Varun Kumar says he feels very fortunate even though he was disappointed at first for not featuring in the 16-member squad. He recalled, “When the squad for the Olympics was announced, my name was not part of the 16-member squad. I still remember that day very well and I was evidently disappointed.”

“But after a few days when IOC allowed hockey teams to expand to 18 players, Simranjeet and I were called up as P athletes. It came as a huge relief but somewhere at the back of my mind I was still upset about not making it to the final 16 and I really wanted to prove myself.”

Varun Kumar further stated that the skipper Manpreet Singh having a one-on-one chat with him before the team left for Tokyo helped him. He said, “It really helped that Captain Manpreet had a long chat with me and pumped me up mentally. Manpreet has been a big influence in my career from a very young age as we played in the same Academy and him talking to me made a lot of difference. I stopped beating myself up for not being good enough to make the 16-member squad. I started focusing on how I can make this opportunity count and deliver when the team needs me.”

What followed in Tokyo is now part of history as the Indian men’s hockey team went on to clinch the bronze medal. Varun Kumar played a key role in India’s 3-1 win against Argentina in the pool stage as he scored the first goal of the match. He was effective in the backline and impressed with his performance every time he was called up.

“It was indeed a fantastic experience in Tokyo. Winning the Bronze and standing on the podium along with my teammates is perhaps the best moment of my life. Now my priority will be to improve in every aspect. We have had a good break after the Olympics and we are all waiting to return to camp in October,” he concluded.

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