Aim is to win a medal at Champions Trophy, says Indian hockey coach Oltmans

Roelant Oltmans 26Bengaluru: A week-long break can do a world of good to players who are put through the grind in an all-important Olympic year and that's what has happened with the men's hockey team who rejoined the national camp here at Sports Authority of India, South Centre on Monday. Their final preparations ahead of the FIH Champions Trophy next week began with a yo-yo test to analyse the players' fitness levels which some of them aced.

"It's the recovery factor. I am happy some of the boys are fitter than ever before," said Roelant Oltmans, Chief Coach and High Performance Director for Hockey India. 

With less than 10 days to go for the opening match in London where India take on the Germans, Oltmans stressed on the team's defence structure. "It is the key to a team's success at a tournament. There are times when you can't score too many goals to win a match but you can certainly win by avoiding the opponents to score. The Germans are known for their defence while the Australians defence is slightly unconventional compared to others and Argentina too heavily depend on their defence for good results. It helped them win Bronze at the World Cup. In our structure, the entire team needs to work on defence. Some of our attackers are good in defence too and that is our strong point," he says.

The coach believes if things go as planned, the team will stand a good chance to win a medal. "Everybody knows we are good in the knockout stage. But Champions Trophy this year will be slightly different and we need to finish top two to play the final and be top four to play for Bronze. It will be interesting to see how our players will cope to this situation and face the challenge. Our realistic expectation is to finish in the top three," he adds.

June will be a crucial month for the Indian team as they travel to Spain soon after the Champions Trophy in London. They return only in July and Coach is aware that some of the younger players will have to ward off the pressure of getting picked for the Olympic squad to be announced in July.

"There will be a little bit of pressure. It is a challenge the players need to be prepared for and show their best hockey. Only 16 out of 29 members in the camp will get to play at the Olympics and that is quite a sizeable number to drop. They will have to challenge other players in the team which is why every match, every performance is important," he concluded.