Picture by WSP - correo.jaramillo@gmail.com

India women's hockey team at Olympics: A look back

India women's hockey team will be making their third Olympic appearance in Tokyo.
By Samrat Chakraborty

India women's hockey team made history after reaching their first-ever Olympic Semi-Final on Monday courtesy of defeating world no.2 Australia 1-0 in the Quarter-Final match at the Oi Hockey Stadium in the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The Indian team were in sublime form and Gurjit Kaur (22') emerged as the only goal-scorer of the match. At the other end, Savita Punia was invincible under the frame as she made nine saves in the match. The Indian team will face off against world no. 5 Argentina in the semifinal on Wednesday.

The Rani Rampal-led side made a cut for Tokyo 2020 in a dramatic fashion. They beat USA 5-1 in the first leg and later shrugged off a stiff challenge in the second leg to qualify on a 6-5 aggregate in 2019.

The ninth-ranked team returned to international competition in 2021, following the hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with tours to Germany and Argentina. Though they could not win a game in both the tours, they gained much-needed experience that they put to use in Tokyo.

Let us have a look at the Indian women's team's past performances at the Olympics.

Sushila Chanu in action for India women's hockey team Photo: Hockey India.
Picture by WORLDSPORTPICS.COM/FFU

1980

It was a breakthrough year for the India women's hockey team as they finished on the fourth spot in their maiden Olympic appearance in Moscow. It is also their best performance at the Olympics till date.

It must be noted that 1980 was when women's hockey was introduced into the Olympic roster.

The Indian eves, which had some star players in the Saini sisters, Lorraine Fernandes and Prem Maya Sonir, started the preliminary round robin stage on a positive note as they defeated Austria 2-0 and followed it up with 4-0 win over Poland 4-0.

A setback befell them in the third match as they lost to Czechoslovakia by a slender 1-2 margin. The Women in Blue then registered a 1-1 draw against Zimbabwe and finally lost 1-3 to Soviet Union to finish on the fourth spot.

Overall, India registered five points from five games, scored nine goals and conceded six. But they missed out on the bronze medal by a whisker with Soviet Union finishing just ahead with six points.

2016

After a drought of over three decades, India women's hockey team qualified for Rio Olympics, after England made it to the final of the EuroHockey Championships in London, 2015.

India sealed the quota place for Rio Olympics on the basis of their fifth-place finish in the women's Hockey World League Semifinals in Antwerp, Belgium in 2015.

The Women in Blue, however, did not enjoy a long run at the Games as they were knocked out in the group stage. The Sushila Pukhrambam-led side started the campaign with a 2-2 draw against Japan. Current India eves captain Rani Rampal and Lilima Minz scored the goals for India.

They were later blanked 0-3 by Great Britain and thrashed 1-6 by Australia, where Anuradha Thokchom scored India's consolation.

The Indian eves continued their poor run as the United States would later outplay them 3-0 before Argentina made it worse for them with a 5-0 thrashing.

2021

The Indian team made successive Olympic appearances for the first time in their history. However, things did not go as planned in the tournament opener as they were thrashed 5-1 by Netherlands. They were outplayed in every department and the final hooter was a welcome siren for the team.

Although they looked more confident against Germany in the second match, they could not match their quality and ended up losing 2-0. Things went further south in their next fixture against Great Britain as they lost 4-1.

In the final two matches of the group stage they needed to win against Ireland and South Africa for a place in the knockouts. Under pressure, the team produced the goods. They eked out a narrow 1-0 victory over the Irish and edged out the Proteas 4-3 in their next game.

Their biggest scalp came in the knockouts when they defeated Australia 1-0 and progressed to the semifinals.