All the news for Monday 27 April 2020
PR Sreejesh: An impenetrable wall ‘crazy’ enough to shoulder a nation’s responsibility
The veteran custodian has been guarding the Indian net for quite a few years with great success and has shown no signs of slowing down.
The most dependable goalkeeper the Indian hockey has had for many years, PR Sreejesh once termed the role ‘as a crazy job’ and that ‘not something a normal person would do.’
However, one of his coaches in his early years also apprised him of the fact that the department offered him a chance to be the ‘showstopper’.
“I didn’t hesitate (to take up the role),” he told The Indian Express.
Quite fittingly, it is his stopping abilities that have given him all the recognition he wanted. And to think it would have not happened at all if PR Sreejesh had not taken the difficult decision of moving away from home.
The stocky kid who hated running
Sreejesh had always been a passionate sports kid and his prowess at district-level shot put earned him a chance to travel to a more sport-centric school that was 200kms away from Ernakulam, his village in Kerala.
The nerves kicked in for the then 12-year-old and though, overcome by the emotion of staying away from his parents, he eventually made the decision to go. This is where he was introduced to hockey by Jayakumar and Ramesh Kolappa, who coached the school team.
“I had a hunch that he’d be a good goalkeeper, going by his stocky build and his body language,” Jayakumar told Scroll.in. Moreover, the youngster did not like running too much and the role appealed to him.
PR Sreejesh soon played for the school team and as luck would have it, then coach of the junior national Indian hockey team and future senior team coach, Harendra Singh spotted him at an U-14 tournament.
The latter soon called up the goalkeeper to the junior national camp in Delhi in 2003 but it was not at all an easy introduction. PR Sreejesh, whose father had somehow put together Rs. 15,000, an amount far beyond his means, to get him a goalkeeper's kit, was taunted endlessly.
The other kids made fun of his ‘amateur’ gear and continually bombarded balls at his body, routine training for custodians, but it was too painful for the 15-year-old. His little knowledge of Hindi, the most widely spoken language in the country, only made matters worse.
However, not once did the boy complain. Each time he was hit, he would dust himself off, rub the pain away and promptly return to his position. The determination soon earned him a national debut.
The tough road to first-choice
In 2004, PR Sreejesh made his debut for the junior Indian hockey team against Australia and his impressive performances culminated in a senior cap at the 2006 South Asian Games. But yet again, he encountered a rude introduction.
The tournament saw some solid performances by the Indian hockey goalkeeper but his error in the final, against fierce rivals Pakistan no less, saw the team go down 2-3 to concede the gold medal.
This was when he realized that guarding the sticks might mean he could get all plaudits when things went well but when it does not, goalkeeping is a thankless job. The early jolt was a good learning curve for the youngster.
For the next few years, PR Sreejesh patiently bided his time for a run with the senior Indian hockey team as the presence of Baljit Singh Dadhwal, Adrian D’Souza, and Bharat Chhetri effectively made him a distant choice for keeper.
He continued playing for the junior team, winning gold and being named ‘goalkeeper of the tournament’ at the Junior Asia Cup in 2008 but the first proper recognition at senior level came in 2011.
At the Asian Champions Trophy final that year, PR Sreejesh came face-to-face with Pakistan yet again, and this time, he saved two penalty strokes from the neighbours to win the Indian hockey team the title. “Only after this win was I noticed,” he would tell ESPN later.
A combination of injuries and poor form to his competitors, most of all at the 2012 Olympics in London, saw PR Sreejesh being instated as the team’s numero uno goalkeeper. He did not disappoint.
Sharp minds make for great captains
The custodian came up with several incredible displays for the Indian hockey team in the coming years. He saved two penalties at the 2014 Asian Games - against Pakistan once more - to win gold, India’s first at the event in 16 years.
The next year, he saved three shots in the shootout against the Netherlands with an injured thumb and shoulder, to give the Indian hockey team a bronze, its first in a major international event for 33 years.
The 6-ft tall PR Sreejesh turned into somewhat of a beast at shootouts, using his large frame to deny attackers. It boded well for the Indian hockey team and so did his communication and ability to read matches. The goalkeeper was very vocal with his defenders as he constantly helped them with their positioning.
“With Sreejesh coming into the side, goalkeeping has now turned into one of India's strengths. What stands out in his game is his ability to read match situations, which very few 'keepers do well and the manner in which he defends penalty corners,” former Pakistan skipper Salman Akbar had told ESPN.
When legendary midfielder Sardar Singh was vacated the captaincy, PR Sreejesh’s nature made him the ideal candidate for the role and he was eventually handed the reins of the team ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Striving for the ultimate dream
In March 2017, the Indian hockey team’s goalkeeper suffered a bad anterior cruciate ligament tear after a collision with an Australian forward at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, an injury that kept him out of action for close to a year.
Two surgeries and many months of rehab later, PR Sreejesh was back on the field but had lost the captaincy to Manpreet Singh and had youngsters Suraj Karkera and Krishan Pathak breathing down his neck.
Though he seemed fine physically, the reflexes had slowed down and his second-guessing cost the Indian hockey team a few goals at the Champions Trophy and the World Cup.
He worked hard to regain his mental strength and retained his spot as the no. 1 coming into 2019, the year where the Indian hockey team qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and where they won silver at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
PR Sreejesh was also a towering presence in the team’s strong start to their maiden FIH Pro League campaign as he constantly denied Belgium, Australia and the Netherlands and made crucial saves in penalty shootouts as well, underlining his supremacy.
The good form would have seen high expectations at the Tokyo Olympics but the one-year delay means that the Indian hockey team would have to do it all over again next year.
However, with a rock-like PR Sreejesh as their last line of defence, they would no doubt be assured of safety at the back and a medal-return would be a fitting gift for an ever-consistent servant.
Isolation Diaries: With Indian hockey forward Vandana Katariya
The striker has been busy analysing previous matches and is bringing out her artistic side during this time off.
By Rahul Venkat
Vandana Katariya is eager to get back on the field. Photo: Hockey India
Indian hockey forward Vandana Katariya has been a big part of the women’s team ever since her debut for the senior team in 2007.
Her experience has been key in the Indian hockey women’s team’s medals at the previous two Asian Games and her constant attacking threat makes her a pest in the opposition defence.
The Olympic Channel spoke to Vandana Katariya recently and discovered that she is quite a diligent student of the game, making her a coach’s delight.
Last time you were indoors for this long?
This has to be the first time that I have gone through something of this sort.
How do you spend your time in quarantine?
We are residing at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) campus in Bengaluru so it's mostly about following the schedules given to us.
I do some exercises and watch a bit of television. I have also taken to watching replays of the Indian hockey team's previous matches on my iPad.
One new skill you learnt.
I have tried my hand at drawing during this period.
I think I am alright at it so far. It is a good pastime in my room.
A TV series or book that you have enjoyed.
Oh, I have watched a number of different shows and movies on television, cannot really pinpoint any one of them as a favourite.
Your preferred way to workout these days?
I like all the core exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups and crunches.
The main thing for us is to play hockey on the field, but since we have not been able to do that in the last few days, we have focussed on maintaining our fitness.
What has your diet been like in the past month?
Must say that it has not really altered too much.
The only difference is that I’m staying away from non-vegetarian food, so it is mostly vegetables at the moment.
First thing you will do after isolation ends.
I definitely want to start playing hockey on the turf. I would go to the ground and start practicing with the stick.
Omagh hockey players pledge to run 5K every day in May
By Tommy Nethery
Members of Omagh Hockey Club are doing their bit to support NHS staff
MEMBERS of Omagh Hockey Club have pledged to run a 5K every day for the month of May to raise much needed funds in assisting local healthcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
In recent weeks club officials and players have been playing a key role in helping the local community during the escalating Covid-19 outbreak and as part of that drive the club is embarking on a major fund-raiser next month.
Club stalwart Iris Nelson said club coach Lyndsey McCay came up with the idea of running 5K every day for a full month and added that club members were already in training for the fund-raising push.
“We are just trying to give a wee bit of something back,” said Iris.
“You see it all around you, everybody is doing something to help and raise funds. Look at Captain Tom, what he has done is phenomenal.
“I suppose we are taking inspiration from what is going on all around us. Up to this point we have been doing a few bits and bobs. I recently emailed the Western Trust seeing what they needed for patients. So we have delivered a few boxes to them made up of toiletries, that sort of thing.
“We have also being working with the Spar on the Hospital Road helping with home deliveries. We have a rota system in place and someone is going in one day a week to assist with that. This is the next thing in that we are trying to raise funds.
“I think there are about 35 players including the firsts, seconds and the veterans who have pledged to do a 5K every day in the month of May for the Western Trust.”
Much of the thinking around the fund-raising effort centred on the fact that quite a number of club members are frontline NHS staff while many more are considered key workers.
Iris’s sister Anne Young is just one of number of nurses and trainee nurses in the club, Georgia Stewart and Kathryn Graham are both doctors while a few other players are carers. Others are doing their bit within the teaching profession, Royal Mail and retail sector.
Having that connection was very much part of the motivation according to Iris.
“We have quite a few players involved in the battle against the pandemic, quite a connection with the Western Trust,” she continued.
“We are just trying to do our wee bit to help in any way and I suppose the added incentive is that we are helping team-mates on the frontline.
“Because our competitive season has been cut short, for the firsts and seconds in particular, we all wanted to come together to do some good.
“We have set up a Go Fund page to raise awareness of what we are planning to do as much as anything else and already people are pledging money. It’s overwhelming to see that.
“Once we get started we will be posting selfies and what have you and hopefully that will encourage people to boost the coffers.
“We wanted to keep it local so that’s why the money is going to the Western Trust.
“Of course there is a spin-off as well. It’s another way players can maintain their fitness levels in supporting a worthwhile cause. And not forgetting the added bonus of improving mental health,” she added.
• People can donate by going onto the club’s Facebook page and clicking on the following link, https://gf.me/u/xxu9md.
Hockey New England receives state government funding for lighting upgrade
Hockey New England Vice President Mark Low and Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall in front of the hockey turf which will soon have new LED lights installed.
The future is looking bright for Hockey New England who will receive AUD$137,000 from the state government to upgrade lighting at its turf fields at the University of New England (UNE) in Australia.
Hockey New England President Lisa Whitty said the upgrades would benefit the club on multiple fronts.
"The existing halogen lights are inefficient to run, they are expensive to replace and don't provide the standard of light needed to play hockey safely at night," Ms Whitty said.
"With a small, hard ball getting smacked around a field hockey can be a dangerous sport, especially with bad lighting.
"The LED bulbs which we have decided to use will be shipped in from the Netherlands and will provide players with a much brighter and therefore safer playing environment.
"They will also be a lot cheaper for us to run, which means more money for our organisation to reinvest into further improving our facilities and player development.
"The new lights will take about two months to arrive and will be installed and ready for play by the middle of this year," she said.
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall, who announced the grant on Monday, said the success of the sport in Armidale had increased the need to make the fields playable day and night.
"Back in the mid 1990s, when the two turfs with their halogen lights were first built, the venue was able to cater for the number of players involved with the sport - that's no longer the case," Mr Marshall said.
With more than 1000 members, ranging from five to 75 years of age, currently associated with Hockey New England, he said there was a strong need for matches and training to be scheduled at night to ensure everyone gets a chance to play.
"This funding will allow Hockey New England to replace the aged halogen lights, with state-of-the-art LEDs capable putting out 500 Lux, or the recommended light needed for professional sport.
"I'm confident with the calibre of the fields and lighting upgrades we will soon see state or even national championship hockey being played in Armidale annually," he said.
Former hockey chief Annabel Pennefather, a trailblazer for women in sport, dies at 72
Ms Annabel Pennefather was Singapore's first female chef de mission, serving at the Commonwealth Games (2002) and Olympic Games (2004).PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER
SINGAPORE - Annabel Pennefather, a former president of the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF), who broke the glass ceiling on the local sports scene, died on Monday morning (April 27). She was 72.
Pennefather, who underwent surgery in 1996 after a routine health check found a 2.5cm hole in her heart, died of heart failure, said her cousin Deborah Barker.
The former national hockey player, who headed the sports law practice at Withers KhattarWong, became president of the SHF in 2004. She was its first female president, leading the association till 2012.
SHF president Mathavan Devadas called her "an iconic character", saying: "Her legacy to hockey in Singapore was Sengkang (the Sengkang Hockey Pitch), and she was at the forefront of women in sport.
"I learnt quite a bit from her in terms of promoting female participation in hockey in Singapore and that's something we worked very hard to achieve.
"Even after she stepped down as (SHF) president, we could always call on her for any assistance and she would readily give it, so I was very appreciative of that."
However, Pennefather is perhaps remembered more for her trailblazing achievements outside the sport.
In 1999, she became the first woman to be co-opted into the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) executive committee in its 52-year history. She was then elected SNOC vice-president in 2002, becoming the first woman to have held the post.
She was also Singapore's first female chef de mission, serving at the Commonwealth Games (2002) and Olympic Games (2004).
Outside Singapore, she also held positions in several international federations. Besides acting as vice-president at the International Hockey Federation before heading its judicial commission, she was also a member of World Athletics' disciplinary tribunal and ethics board, as well as an external judicial expert with the Badminton World Federation.
SNOC president Tan Chuan-Jin said: "We are deeply saddened by Annabel's passing and send our deepest condolences to her family.
"Annabel was one of the pioneer women sports administrators in Singapore and was very passionate in championing the Olympic Movement and women in sports.
"Her contribution was not limited to Singapore. She was also invited and elected to positions at the Commonwealth Games Federation, Badminton World Federation, International Cricket Council, International Hockey Federation and World Athletics.
"We are grateful for all that she has poured in, and will miss her greatly."
Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua, who served on the SNOC executive committee with Pennefather from 2014 to 2018, said the latter was a great mentor to many.
"(It's a) sad day for all of us in Singapore, as we lost a trailblazer and ambassador for sports as well as a great champion for women in sport," she said.
"Annabel was a class act, great athlete, intelligent, quick-witted, warm and graceful and had such an abundance of patience. She will be dearly missed but fondly remembered."
The Straits Times