It’s been 36 years since India won a medal in hockey at the Olympics. As the team heads to Rio, there is a realistic chance and great anticipation this time around that the team could once again stand on the podium, on the back of some impressive results in the last few years. And one man who could prove instrumental in India’s quest for Olympic glory is S V Sunil.
Somwarpet Vittalacharya Sunil was born on May 6, 1989 in Coorg district of Karnataka. In his growing up years, he used a bamboo stick to play the game as he came from a poor background.
He made his international debut at the Asia Cup in Chennai in 2007, a tournament which India won incidentally. He was then part of the silver-winning team at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup the following year. More recently, he was part of two historic triumphs – a bronze at the World Hockey League in 2015 and a silver at the Champions Trophy in 2016.
"Coming from a poor family in Coorg, hockey has given me everything I need to lead a comfortable life. And when I play, I remember what the game has given me for the sacrifices I have made and I will do everything to bring glory for the country," Sunil said, while speaking to Followyoursport.com.
S V Sunil is regarded as one of the fastest players on the turf today and his blazing runs, mostly down the right flank, have caught the opposition unawares many a time. These incisive inroads have either resulted in direct goals or have created set-piece opportunities for others to score.
With the additional responsibility of vice-captaincy, Sunil is a vital cog in the Indian machine who could tilt fortunes in the team’s favour in crucial match situations.
"I don't feel that the role of Vice-Captain brings any pressure to my game. Being part of the team for so long, I have learnt to handle pressure and that helps me stick to my natural game. Vice-Captaincy for me, is all about making the youngsters in the team understand their role and motivate them to play to their potential.” Sunil stated.
Sunil is quietly confident about the team doing well at the quadrennial event.
“The approach we have for the Olympics this time is far more systematic and I feel we are on the right track. Last time, we paid more attention to fitness. But this time, it is very different. We pay attention to overall development as a team and the training has a lot to do with discipline and team spirit which I think has helped us on the field and in understanding each other's strengths and weaknesses.”
Coach Roelant Oltmans is impressed with Sunil’s talent and ability.
"He is an attacker and brings something exceptional to the team. He understands our demands and he keeps questioning what we are doing in a positive way so that he can understand it and translate to the younger players," Oltmans said.
“I want Australia. I want them in the semi-finals and I want to beat them bad,” said SV Sunil in a recent interview to Sportskeeda, reflecting the team’s eagerness to beat them after they have emerged as the last stumbling block in a series of tournaments lately.
(India's Olympic Hope is a series of profiles of south India's Olympic participants of Rio 2016)