India are just a step away from getting back into the Olympics and the hero - as has historically been the case - is once again a 'Singh' - a last name that is synonymous with Indian hockey ever since the golden age began with the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. Penalty corner specialist Sandeep Singh's 11 lethal drag-flicks have powered India into the finals of London 2012 Olympic qualifiers.
It's ironic, though, that the eight-time Olympic gold-medalists have to go through the jitters in a qualification tournament, but the state of the national game hasn't been the same since the Moscow Games in 1980, when India last won an Olympic medal (gold) in hockey.
But the rich hockey heritage and resilience of 'Singhs' was not the one to get perturbed with the setbacks on and off the field. The 'white turban' has been part of every Indian team since 1928. Players like Udham Singh and Balbir Singh Sr. laid the foundation of this legacy, which passed on through names such as Ajit Pal Singh and Pargat Singh to the 21st-century crop led by Sandeep Singh and Sardar Singh.
However, it's a team game and the contribution of other stalwarts, led by hockey wizard Major Dhyanchand, is none less superior. Legends like Dhyanchand, Baboo Nimal and Ashok Kumar had a strong role in helping the 'Singhs' build the stature that they now enjoy in the game and it will be a sin to overlook that.
But since we are talking about 'Singh' the 'King', let's take a look at a few of the records that put them in a different league.
1. Ajit Singh has scored the fastest-ever goal in Olympic history. It came in just 15 seconds from the start of India's opening game against Argentina in the 1976 Montreal Games. It was also the first Olympic goal scored on the astro turf.
2. Balbir Singh Sr. enjoys the feat of winning three consecutive Olympic gold medals (1948, 1952 and 1956). He was also the captain in the 1956 Melbourne Games. He shares this record with hockey wizard Dhyanchand. Balbir also holds the Guinness World Record for most goals (5) scored by a player in an Olympic mens hockey final. He earned this distinction in 1952.
3. Udham Singh entered the Guinness Book for participating in four consecutive Olympics (1952-1964). Kenyas Avtar Singh Sohal and Surjeet Singh Panesar later equalled Udham's record (1960 to 1972).
4. Prithipal Singh enjoys the possession of all three Olympic medals " Gold (1964), Silver (1960) and Bronze (1968).
5. Jugraj Singh was India's first penalty corner specialist but injury brought a premature end to his promising career.
And once again as India stand on the threshold of an Olympic qualification, the team has been served by as many as four players donning the 'white turban' " Sandeep Singh (defender and penalty corner specialist), Sardar Singh (midfielder), Sarvanjit Singh (forward) and Gurwinder Singh Chandi (forward). But what matters most is that the team is shaping up into a well-knit unit and looking good to hit an upward curve under coach Michael Nobbs.