The Indian men’s hockey team defender Birendra Lakra, who has been part of many memorable moments with the national side, expressed that he is very determined to make it to the Indian squad for the Olympics. Lakra, who has played 196 matches for the Indian team, missed out on the Rio Olympics due to a knee injury and therefore he is very keen on making it to the final team list for the Tokyo Olympics.

“It was really a hard time for me in 2016 when I missed out on the chance of representing India in the Rio Olympics,” the 31-year-old said.

“After my recovery, my sole goal has been to ensure that I am fit and absolutely ready for the Tokyo Olympics. I have worked very hard on my game in the last five years, and I am very determined to make it to the Indian squad for the Tokyo Olympics. I am ensuring that I am playing at my absolute best during practice and giving my 100% in every training session,” he added

The defender also suggested that the Indian team’s bench strength is fantastic and that no player can take his place for granted in the side.

“Even though I am one of the most experienced players in the Indian side, my place in the team is not guaranteed. There is a lot of competition for each position and that is what keeps all of us on our toes. Everyone is determined to play and perform for India and therefore all of us make sure that we are giving everything we have during every practice session,” said Lakra.

“Apart from skill development, we also make sure that we are giving enough attention to our fitness regimes as well,” he added.

The 31-year-old said that the team has gained a lot of confidence after playing well in the tour of Argentina in April.

“The tour of Argentina has given us a lot of confidence in our abilities. We played very well as a unit, and we took away a lot of positives from that tour. We noted down a few things that we need to work on post the tour and we are currently working on each of them at SAI. By the time the Olympics start, I think we will be fully prepared to play at our best,” said the defender.

The Tokyo Olympics are set to be held from July 23 to August 8 in the Japanese capital.

India has a rich history in hockey at the Olympics winning eight gold medals, one silver and two bronze medals. However, India last won the gold in the 1980 Olympics.

India have been a much improved side over the last five years but have their task cut out if they are to end that long wait.