Kolkata: The cancellation of qualifying events in various disciplines due to COVID-19 pandemic has put a question mark over participation of some top Indian athletes in Tokyo Olympics. The men and women’s hockey teams have been, however, fortunate enough to pursue their dreams at their ongoing camps at SAI Centre, Bengaluru, where midfielder Neha Goyal is raring to go for what would be her maiden Games.
“I understand this Olympics may be very different to the previous ones. But representing India at the Olympics Games is every sportsperson’s dream and listening to those very many stories from the seniors who played in Rio, obviously you don’t want to miss a chance. It’s this motivation that makes all of us give our 100 per cent in every training session. I am definitely looking forward to make the team for my maiden Olympic Games,” said the 24-year-old from Haryana.
In Rio, the Indian women’s team made their first appearance after 36 years - and there are enough survivors from that team in this lot including captain Rani Rampal. “There is enough competition within the core group to make the final squad. I think also another contributing factor to our growing confidence is Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne, who constantly pushes us to excel. He inculcates that confidence in each player, and I believe this has also helped in the way we have played against some of the top teams in the recent past,” Goyal told Hockey India website.
Incidentally, coronavirus made it’s presence felt in their camp too when seven members of the women’s team, including Rampal, and two support staff members tested positive in the third week of April when they returned from their native places to join the camp.
With travel restrictions in place, the Indian teams continue to remain at SAI Centre. Though the absence of competitive matches could be a drawback for the team’s preparations, the players upbeat of putting their best foot forward in Tokyo. “We have good facilities here with an exclusive strength and conditioning gym meant only for hockey players. We have a good support system around us and we are using different methods and scenarios to ensure each session is intense. We try and create match scenarios and use video analysis from previous tours to Argentina and Germany. We have identified specific areas to work on and improve. I feel all these aspects are helping us in our preparations and we are optimistic about our chances,” she said.
“Our focus now is to stay fit mentally and physically, improve our speed and stay injury-free in the build-up to the Games,” Goyal added.