PR Sreejesh - The Great Wall of India
India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh saved a German penalty corner in the dying seconds of the game.
Only 6.8 seconds were left in the game. India was leading 5-4. But then Germany won a penalty corner and was closing in on destroying India's dream of winning an Olympic medal after 41-years and its first Bronze in 49-years.
However, Germany had the PR Sreejesh barrier to cross first. The 35-year-old from Kerala came up with the most telling save of his career, not his first of the game, and with that, he officially replaced Rahul Dravid as The Wall. We are sure Dravid won't mind being stripped of that title. In fact, he would be super happy to pass on the baton to the three-time Olympian.
Sreejesh was anyway on his way to earn that title after some spectacular saves throughout the tournament, such as the spectacular double-save in less than two seconds against Great Britain in the quarter-finals. We kid you not. Watch it to believe it.
And to think that that this man was contemplating retirement sometime back. It won't be wrong to say that if not for him, India would have had to wait for a medal for another three years (the next Olympics being in 2024). And, by then, Sreejesh, 35 at present, may not have been in the picture.
"Sreejesh has been one of the finest goalkeepers in this Olympics. He has played a huge role. He always guided the defenders. He has sacrificed a lot for this moment. I can go on writing about Sreejesh's sacrifices," an emotional Harendra Singh, former coach of India, having a difficult time controlling his tears after India's magnificent achievement, said of Sreejesh while talking to Sony Sports.
In his youth, Sreejesh was nowhere near Hockey. Instead, he started as a sprinter and then moved to High jump, Basketball and Volleyball. Then, when he was 12, his coach suggested that he shift his focus to goalkeeping in Hockey.
He made his junior national team debut in 2004 and saw himself sharing the dressing room with senior goalkeepers Adrian D'Souza and Bharat Chettri in the men's national team a couple of years later at the South Asian Games in Colombo. Soon, he became India's first-choice goalkeeper.
After his impressive show in the 2014 Asian Games and the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, where India clinched gold and bronze, respectively, the Kerala government honoured Sreejesh with a road named after him in his village of Kizhakkambalam in 2015 - 'Olympian Sreejesh Road'.
So what will they rename after the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri medal winner this time? An actual wall, dare we suggest, might be ideal. Won't it?
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