The Indian women’s hockey team may have captured the imagination of an entire nation with fourth-place finish but the magnitude of its feat is yet to sink in, feels skipper Rani Rampal, still nursing a heartbreak of missing an Olympic bronze. From a bottom-place finish at Rio 2016, the Indian women’s team capped a remarkable journey at Tokyo Olympics, finishing fourth after losing 3-4 to defending champions Great Britain on Friday. “At the Rio Games, we finished 12th. We knew we won’t be able to perform well as it was our first Olympics and we had no experience. But we entered Tokyo with the belief that we will do something," Rani said during a virtual press conference.
“Reaching the semifinal is a big achievement and it has been appreciated by all the women’s teams in the world. They told us ‘What you have achieved in the tournament has never happened in Indian history and you have a bright future ahead’." “Maybe we aren’t realising it today and will understand (the magnitude of the feat) after sometime," she added.
After losing the first three games, the Indian women made a stunning comeback, defeating Ireland and South Africa to qualify for the quarterfinals. In the last eight, they stunned the three-time champions Australia to enter the Olympic semifinals for the first time. The veteran striker said that although they lost the first three matches on the trot, the members of the team believed they could reach the knock-out stage.
“When we lost our first three matches a lot of people had written us off but we knew we played well in the first two part against The Netherlands and even against Germany we didn’t win but we had the hope that we can reach the quarters after winning two matches.
“We performed well as a team against Ireland and then against South Africa also. The team showed courage and determination. The team showed a lot of character against Australia who have experience of playing all marquee events," she said. Rani said the coming year is an important one for the team and she hopes the side can carry the winning momentum it has gained in Tokyo.
“Next year is an important one, we have the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Asia Cup from where we can qualify for the World Cup. The Olympics was a good learning experience, we have made an identity for ourselves so we need to continue this."
Reflecting on the match against Ireland when Indians were awarded several penalty corners but were unable to convert them, the team’s drag-flick specialist Gurjit Kaur said she analysed herself and worked on her shortcomings that helped in the game against Australia where she was the lone goal scorer.
“There are times when you try a lot but you aren’t able to succeed because its just not your day. That’s what happened, we got 14 penalty corners and we couldn’t convert. Their goalkeeper was very good and they also defended well.
“I watched my videos to find out where I am going wrong and what mistakes I am making. So then I worked on my shortcomings," she added. After the game against Great Britain head coach Sjored Marijne announced that he would be stepping down.
“He is stepping down as our coach. I respect his decision, family is important. We knew that after the Olympics he will leave. He deserves all the credit because he has worked a lot for women’s hockey in India," Rani said.