Chandigarh, November 11
Women’s hockey team skipper Rani Rampal today said securing India’s passage into the 2020 Olympics with her decisive goal in the qualifiers was a “surreal experience”.
Rani scored the all-important goal during the recent clash against the USA in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers in Odisha as India beat the visitors 6-5 on aggregate.
“I managed to keep my composure during the turn and finish. It was a surreal experience when I was hugging my teammates with joy,” said Rani, recalling her goal.
“When I was stepping onto the field with just 15 minutes remaining, I was a little skeptical because I felt like we cannot let our hard work of three years come down to this. But when I finally got the ball inside the striking circle, I knew I had some space ahead of me, and I just focused on keeping possession and getting my basics right,” she said.
Having earned their ticket to Tokyo, a podium finish at the Olympics is possible considering the long strides the team has taken in the last three years, asserted Rani.
India lost the second of the two-game contest 1-4 but qualified courtesy the team’s comprehensive 5-1 win in the opening counter.
Interestingly, in 2015 when Indian women’s team qualified for the Rio Olympics after a gap of 36 years, it was Rani who had played a key role in the decisive victory against Japan. The team, though, failed to make a mark at the competition as they finished last.
However, Rani said that her team had improved vastly since Rio. “We did not have a great tournament in Rio, but we got the experience of playing at the Olympic Games. Currently, we have 10 players in our squad who were a part of the team that participated in Rio. And with the huge improvements that we have made to our game since then, I am really confident of targeting a podium finish in Tokyo.”
“Earlier this year, we took part in the Olympic Test Event and we won the tournament convincingly. The other positive was that we got a good experience of playing in those conditions, and that will help us in preparing well for the 2020 Games,” Rani pointed.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) announced that the next women’s World Cup will be hosted jointly by the Netherlands and Spain in 2022, and Rani spoke about the prospects of participating in the tournament.
“We had a good campaign at the World Cup last year in England, and to have made it to the quarterfinals and losing out to Ireland in penalty shootout was disappointing, but that shows we were just one win away from making it to the semifinals,” said the 24-year-old from Haryana. — TNS
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