The Junior World Cup-winner was on the sidelines since October last year.

Qualifying for the Olympic Games and then representing one’s own country at the quadrennial event is the biggest dream come true for any athlete. Same is the case with Indian men’s hockey team’s defender Varun Kumar, who could not play a role in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers 2019 due to nerve damage in his right arm, but wants to ensure he is giving his best in order to be in the 16-member team which plays at the Tokyo Olympics next year.

The young Defender who had to pull out of the two-legged Olympic Qualifiers just a week prior due to the injury, recalls the moment.

“We had a long National Camp in Bhubaneswar before the Olympic Qualifiers last year, and we were preparing ourselves to face Russia. Everything was going well for me, but with 10 days to go for the matches, I felt some weakness in my right arm and told the team physio, David MacDonald. He asked me to wait for a couple of days to see if it gets any better, but unfortunately it didn’t, so I had to pull out of the team,” said Varun Kumar.

He added, “It was definitely difficult for me because all year we had been thinking about qualifying for the Olympics, and when the moment actually came, I suffered the injury and couldn’t help my side. But I am also very proud that we have so many great players in this team. It just makes it easy for the team because the quality isn’t affected at all.”

Having missed one part of his dream, Varun Kumar says he is now fully focused on ensuring that the second part of his dream is fulfilled. He remarked, “See, any athlete who takes the field representing India, wants to always give their best and wants to win the biggest tournaments for the country.”

“I know I could only support the team from the sidelines during the Qualifiers, but now my job is to prepare my body and my mind in the best way possible so that I do not miss out on being on that 16-member team that takes the field in Tokyo, and then give my best for the side to finish on the podium there,” said the youngster who hails from Mithapur, Punjab.”

Varun Kumar recovered from his injury at the start of the year in January 2020. The defender said, “When I had recovered completely from the injury and had rejoined the camp in January, I was really eager to wear the blue strip again and represent my country in the FIH Hockey Pro League 2020. I even managed to make my way into the 22-member squad which played against Australia, but then we were all struck with the coronavirus, and since then life has come to a stand-still for everyone.”

A Junior World Cup-winner with the Indian team in 2016, the 24-year-old says it is important for his team to utilise the next 15-months.

“Obviously with the Olympics getting postponed, a lot of things have changed including our year-round schedule. We are still not sure when we will be able to resume outdoor training, so we can’t really say anything about the return of competitive hockey at all. However, with FIH’s decision to extend the Pro League to 2021, I feel it will be important that we utilise our chances of getting to play against the best teams in the world, and make further improvements so that we are ready to give our best in Tokyo next year,” signed off Varun Kumar.