Kolkata: Shaking off the devastated look on losing the bronze medal play-off on Friday, India’s inspirational women’s hockey skipper Rani Rampal wanted the team to move on. If the process which marked their preparation for Tokyo Olympics continues, then Rani feels that an Olympic medal will be round the corner.
‘‘If we build on this performance, I am sure one day the women’s hockey team will be there on the podium (at the Olympics) - may be in 2024 or the one after. I may or may not be there with them, but the team will definitely be there,” Rani said during a virtual press conference on Saturday.
There were some good news awaiting both the men's team, the bronze medallists, and the women as they climbed in the FIH rankings released on Saturday. The men's team are at an all-time high of third position while the women have climbed to eighth spot.
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Having achieved their highest-ever world rankings, men's captain Manpreet Singh said: "It's the reward of all the hard work and dedication towards the game we love, towards the game which has given us everything. This ranking and the Olympic medal after 41 years mark the rise of Indian hockey, and I think this couldn't have happened without the support of the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Sports Authority of India, Odisha government and Hockey India. There is no looking back now, we have set the benchmark for ourselves and would like to grow from here."
Hailed as the real ‘Chak De’ girls, Indian women suffered a heart-breaking 4-3 defeat to Great Britain in the bronze-medal playoff on Friday, narrowly missing the spot on the podium in Tokyo. They will have to turn a new leaf from here onwards and Sjoerd Marijne, the Dutch coach who bonded extremely well with the bunch, has quit as he wants to spend time with his family as Janneke Schopamn, the analytical coach, will now in be charge.
Asked where the team goes from here, Rani said that next year is very crucial as the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games are on the schedule as well as the Asia Cup, which is the qualifier for the World Cup.
She agreed with Marijne that the team needs to play a lot of matches and gain more exposure and experience. Asked whether it was the right time to have a professional league for women players in the country, Rani said it was a decision better left to Hockey India.
“There are a lot of issues involved with running a league and as a player, I don’t understand those things. So I will leave that to Hockey India. But I agree with Sjoerd that we need to play more matches. The junior team also needs exposure because that is the feeder line of this team,” she observed in the interaction hosted by national federation.
“Hockey India has arranged a lot of exposure tours; SAI has made so many arrangements for us, provided good facilities, I just hope that this is continued. Though Sjoerd has decided not to continue and return home, there are other members of the support staff, Janneke (Schopman, analytical coach) is there, Wayne (Lombard, scientific advisor) is there, we need to maintain continuity,” the captain added.
“The support staff has done a great work. They have instilled self-belief in us… that we can compete with the best in the world,” said team member Nisha.
Drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur, who struck that all-important goal in the quarter final against Australia, said the team’s performance has made people realise that the women’s team is also capable of winning a medal. “People have given us a lot of support - they have appreciated our performance, the fighting spirit that we have shown in each match. I thank them on behalf of the team. They need to continue with this,” she added.