India have made it to the semifinals of the Olympic hockey after a gap of 49 years with a 3-1 win over Great Britain in Tokyo on Sunday. Veteran goalkeeper P R Sreejesh played a big role in the Indian win with a number of saves, especially in the third and fourth quarters when Britain went on the attack.
Sreejesh could become just the second Keralite after Manuel Fredericks to clinch an Olympic medal if the Indians win one more match in the ongoing Games.
Fredericks was the goalkeeper of the Indian team which won bronze medal at Munich 1972 and remains the lone Keralite to clinch an Olympic medal. The 73-year-old Fredericks, who hails from Burnassery in Kannur, guarded the Indian goal in two World Cups and was part of the team which won silver in the 1973 edition.
Karnataka was his adopted state and he used to coach schoolchildren in Bengaluru. The Kerala government built a home for Fredericks at Palliyanmoola in Kannur in 2019 taking into account his struggles.
Sreejesh, playing in his third Olympics, has been in stunning form in Tokyo. The Indians bounced back after suffering a 1-7 thrashing at the hands of Australia in their second pool match. They have won four matches on the trot and a fair share of credit should go to Sreejesh and the Indian defence.
At 33, this could well be Sreejesh's final shot at Olympic glory. India take on world champions Belgium on Tuesday morning (7 am IST), while Australia meet Germany in the second semifinal later in the day (3.30 pm IST).
Belgium had knocked India out of the Rio 2016 Olympics with a 3-1 win in the quarterfinals. The winners go through to the final, while the losers will fight it out for the bronze medal.
Though India won the last of their eight gold medals in hockey at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, there was no semifinals as the top two sides played for the gold medal in a depleted field.