New Delhi: The honour to carry India's flag in the opening ceremony of 17th Asian Games couldn't have come at a better time for hockey team skipper Sardar Singh, who feels it will not only spur him but the entire squad to break their 16-year gold jinx in the continental event.
Sardar was on Thursday named as the flag-bearer of the Indian contingent for Friday's opening ceremony in Incheon, and the star midfielder said he is already getting goosebumps.
"It is definitely a big moment for me. It is a big honour to lead the nation in the opening ceremony of a multisport event like the Asian Games. Tomorrow (Friday) will definitely be one of the best moments of my career. I am already getting goosebumps," Sardar said from the South Korean city.
Asked if the responsibility would bring added pressure on him, Sardar said: "I don't think there will be any added pressure because it is an off-field activity. But it will definitely motivate me and my teammates to give our best on the field."
"Our mission is to win the gold here and that is what we aspire from this event. We are determined to come back with gold," he said.
India last won a gold in the mega-event in the Bangkok Games in 1998.
Placed in Pool B alongside arch-foe Pakistan, the Indian men's team will open its campaign against Sri Lanka on Pool B match on September 21.
Sardar said the team is well prepared for the task at hand and raring to take the turf on Sunday.
"Our preparation is going on very well. We defeated Japan in a practice game today," he said.
"We have worked on the mistakes which we committed in the Commonwealth Games and have devised strategies to counter those areas."
Sardar said having arrived in Incheon much earlier, they have managed to get a feel of the conditions here.
"We came here well in advance and it worked in our favour because we have become familiar with the weather and turf here," the skipper said.
Sardar had words of praise for the new format which is going to be introduced in hockey in the Asian Games.
To make the game fast-paced and exciting, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) is set to transform the game from a 70-minute affair that was divided into two halves, to four quarters with a total playing time of 60 minutes in the Incheon Games to be held from September 19 to October 4.
"The level of game in the Asian Games will be very speedy because of the breaks in quarters. The new format is good for the game. The viewers will also enjoy watching fast-paced hockey," Sardar concluded.