India will finish on podium soon, says women’s hockey team skipper Rani

Mumbai:-The fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics by the women’s hockey team has ignited a spark and if “we can build on it properly, the team will finish on the podium”, said Rani Rampal, captain of the side on Saturday.

Rani’s team had 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. But Rani says, the team is definitely capable of winning a medal in the next Olympics in 2024 or the one after that, in (2028).

“We have got a lot of appreciation from the entire country, people have loved the way we played, the fight we put up in our matches and I am sure this will inspire the next generation of women players. 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). 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.

She said that though coach Sjoerd Marijne has decided to move on as he wants to spend time with his family, the other members of the support staff should be retained so that the good work is continued.

“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,” she 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 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.”

About the team’s plans, Rani said that the 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 she would leave that decision 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 added.