Manpreet Singh, captain of India's Tokyo-bound men's hockey team, during a practice session at their ongoing camp at Sports Authority of India, Bengaluru. Image Credit: Hockey India

Dubai: The uncertainty over Tokyo Olympics being held on schedule due to the Coronavirus pandemic has failed to dampen the spirits of both Indian men and women’s hockey teams, who are continuing with their preparations at a fortified Sports Authority of India (SAI) facility in Bengaluru.

It’s just over four months to go for the ‘greatest show on earth’ to begin in Japan from July 24, but the unprecedented outbreak of the COVID-19 disease has thrown the athletes’ community in disarray over participation in the Olympics. While the International Olympic Committee had, even after their latest review meeting on last Tuesday, insisted that there was no need for “drastic measures,” several top athletes felt that the IOC are risking their health priorities.

The Indian hockey teams, however, struck an upbeat note as it’s the only team event where they have a history to boast of and are considered as medal prospects. The men’s hockey team, ranked world No.5, are scheduled to open their campaign against New Zealand while the women’s team is slated to face the Netherlands in their first match on July 25.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has not affected our practice sessions. We are continuously washing our hands and our temperatures are being checked regularly. The authorities at our SAI campus are ensuring that we are training in a safe environment. With the backing of SAI and our coaches, we have been training very hard for the Olympics,” said Indian men’s captain Manpreet Singh.

Rani Rampal, the inspirational women’s team captain who was instrumental in the team’s qualification for Olympics, said that her side is fortunate to continue to train for the Olympics in a safe environment.

“We are very fortunate to have a facility like the SAI campus here. Everyone is working very hard so that the hockey teams can continue to practice for the Olympics. Our health is being monitored everyday and we are taking all the necessary precautions. The authorities at SAI have helped us to continue to focus on our goal of performing well at the Tokyo Olympics,” she said.

The Indian men’s team had qualified for Tokyo late last year after beating Russia 11-3 on aggregate in the Olympic qualifiers held in Bhubaneswar in November.

Ranked ninth in the world, the women’s team had made the cut after rallying to beat the United Sates 6-5 on aggregate in the qualifiers.

After New Zealand, Indian men will face world No.1 Australia on July 26, before taking on Spain (July 28), defending champions Argentina (July 30) and hosts Japan (July 31) in Group A.

The women’s team, who are clubbed in Group A, will lock horns with Germany on July 27, before meeting Great Britain (July 29), Ireland (July 31) and South Africa (August 1). The men’s and women’s gold medal matches will take place on August 6 and 7, respectively.