Written by Nitin Sharma
| Chandigarh |
Updated: October 1, 2021 8:57:32 am
A young Rupinder Pal Singh (sitting fifth from left) with other Chandigarh Hockey Academy trainees along with coaches Jasbir Bajwa and OP Ahlawat. (Special arrangement)
Thirty-year-old former Chandigarh Hockey Academy trainee and a member of the Tokyo Olympics bronze medal winning Indian hockey team, Rupinder Pal Singh, on Thursday announced his retirement from international hockey, catching everyone, including 60-year-old former hockey coach, OP Ahlawat, by surprise.
Ahlawat, who is based out of Edmonton, Canada since 2005, and was among the first coaches, along with late Jasbir Singh Bajwa, at the CHFA, said he had no idea about the development.
On Thursday morning in Canada, Ahlawat said that the first thing that he did after hearing the news was to have a conversation with his former trainee. “We talked after the Indian hockey team won the bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics. Rupinder was very emotional and was talking about Jasbir Bajwa sir. I remember, I had gone to Faridkot for the talent hunt in 2002 to select the first batch for CHFA and I was impressed by the physique of a young Rupinder. As we worked on the basics, including hitting, dodging, stopping the ball, he showed his talent and within six months, I started training him in drag-flick. To see him score more than 100 goals for India and three goals in Tokyo Olympics to finish his career with the Olympics bronze medal will remain the biggest reward for me,” said Ahlawat, who now runs a construction business in Canada.
Rupinder Pal Singh with the Tokyo Olympics bronze medal at Tokyo (Twitter)
Rupinder, whose father Harinder Singh runs a sports shop at Faridkot, started playing hockey at the Baba Sher Shah Wali Academy at Firozpur in 1999 before shifting base to Chandigarh to join the first batch of 25 trainees of the Chandigarh Hockey Academy in 2002. With his aunt staying in Sector 37, Rupinder stayed at the academy and studied at the Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 42 and later at GMSS-35. He made his junior India debut in the Singapore Challenge in 2007 before playing in the Indian junior team in the eight-nation cup in Malaysia. He later was handed his senior India debut in the Azlan Shah Cup in 2010.
The last 11 years have seen Rupinder being part of the 2014 Asian Games gold medal and 2014 CWG silver medal winning Indian hockey team, apart from being a member of 2018 Asian Games bronze medal winning Indian hockey team. Singh, who had scored 11 goals in the Asian Champions Trophy in 2016, scored a total of 119 goals in 223 matches for Indian team. Rupinder, a drag-flicker, is a maternal cousin of former Indian hockey player Gagan Ajit Singh.
“It has been a long journey for me as a hockey player since the last 21 years and to finish my career with the Olympic medal around my neck has been the best memory I can ask for. I started playing hockey at Baba Shershah Wali academy, a brain child of former Punjab DIG Hardeep Singh Dhillon and remember going to Firozpur with my elder brother. When I joined CHFA in 2002, it marked my start as a professional hockey player and I always remember training under Late Jasbir Bajwa sir, OP Ahlawat sir and our trainer Iqbal Singh sir. I can only wish that my journey inspires more and more youngsters,” shared an emotional Rupinder.
Rupinder’s long-time team-mate and fellow trainee of the first batch of CHFA, Dharamvir Singh, remembered their days as trainees as the time spent in the Indian hockey team. “We shared an instant bond when we joined the Chandigarh Hockey Academy. I remember we joined the academy in June and there were no holidays till December. Hence, each one of us treated the other like a family member, which continues till date. Later, we played together in Indian junior teams as well as the senior team, including in the 2014 Asian Games and 2014 CWG. I still believe there was 3-4 years of more hockey left in Rupinder. I wish him all the best,” shared Dharamvir, who is posted as a DSP with Punjab Police at Kurali.
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