India's men and women secure double at Tokyo 2020 hockey test event

Graham Reid's men avenge group defeat to New Zealand as the women edge out Japan in finals at Oi Hockey Stadium

By Shintaro Kano

India's hockey teams are on the right track for Tokyo 2020.

The men swept aside New Zealand 5-0 at Oi Hockey Stadium to take victory in the Olympic Test Event having gone down to the Black Sticks in the group stages.

The women then avenged their Asian Games final defeat to Japan, beating the hosts 2-1 to complete an Indian double.

A sign of things to come?

New Zealand's 2-1 win over India on Sunday saw Darren Smith's men book their place in the final.

India eventually joined them thanks to a 6-3 win over hosts Japan on Tuesday, and had revenge on their minds.

Graham Reid's side attacked from the start and captain Harmanpreet Singh converted a penalty corner to open the scoring in the seventh minute.

Shamsher Singh made it 2-0 in the 18th minute before three goals in the space of five minutes put the game beyond doubt.

Shamsher Singh (2nd R) celebrates after putting India 2-0 up against New Zealand

Nilakanta Sharma scored in the 22nd minute and strikes in quick succession from Gursahibjit Singh and Mandeep Singh left India 5-0 up after just 27 minutes.

They were able to cruise through the last two quarters without conceding with two-time Olympian Harmanpreet delighted at his side's victory.

He told Olympic Channel, "It was a very good game. We had a chance early on, and then we decided to go for the full press. Every guy did a very good job and that’s why we ended up winning."

"This is important. We won the final match today but in the league we lost to New Zealand so it was nice we played well in the final. It’s a sign every guy did his job." - India captain Harmanpreet Singh talking to Olympic Channel

Japan beat Malaysia 6-1 in the third-place playoff.

Hoping to medal at Tokyo 2020

Currently ranked fifth in the world, India are targeting their first medal in four decades at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games under Graham Reid.

The Australian took over from Harendra Singh in April after a World Cup quarter-final exit on home soil in Bhubaneswar.

While India have eight Olympic gold medals to their name, they have not finished higher than fifth since winning gold at Moscow 1980 and even failed to qualify for Beijing 2008.

Reid is the eighth coach in 10 years to try to restore India to the summit of world hockey, and he has plenty to prove after his fancied Australian side went out to the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.

He has spoken of the need for India to toughen up mentally after watching the team collapse to Malaysia in the semi-finals of last year’s Asian Games with victory in that tournament securing a berth at Tokyo 2020.

Judging by how they regrouped against New Zealand, India appear to be heading in the right direction with Harmanpreet saying, "It's a great opportunity to play at the Olympics and we are working very hard for a medal. I think we will do well."

Confidence boost

In the women’s final, a 33rd-minute penalty corner proved decisive as Lalremsiami gave India the lead for good against Japan.

Navjot Kaur had given India the lead with Japan's Minami Shimizu equalising later in the first quarter.

The hosts won several short corners but could not level the scores with coach Anthony Farry full of praise for the victors.

He said, "It’s always disappointing when you lose in the final but all credit to India. They were the better side tonight and we just couldn’t match them.

"It's disappointing to lose but when someone plays better than you, that’s simply the nature of sport sometimes."

Indian player Monika said the double victory is sure to boost confidence in the nation.

She said, "It means both the men and women are improving. We’re just showing our game. We played very well here and our next step is to qualify for the Olympics in November."

On the venue where India will hope to return for next year's Games, Monika added, "It’s amazing. The crowd is amazing. The supporters, we scored a goal and they even cheered for us."

Australia defeated China 3-1 to take third place in the Tokyo 2020 Test Event.

Tokyo 2020 venue passes the test

The match ended a week of testing at the Tokyo 2020 venue which drew rave reviews from those on hand at the stadium, including Asian Hockey Federation CEO Tayyab Ikram.

Ikram, who is is also a member of the FIH Executive Board and the IOC Commission, said, "This test event gave us a full opportunity to test. We are very happy with what we see. Our four pitches will be ready for the Games, and to operate this great venue we have a competent team. I can say safely, as an expert, we are headed in the right direction.

"The first thing for us was to find our home in Tokyo because inside Tokyo we didn’t have a facility of international standards. We do have a good hockey base in Tokyo, but we were looking for a venue of international standards with long-term objectives that we can achieve in a more sustainable way."

FIH chief executive Thierry Weil added: "The Oi Hockey Stadium is a remarkable facility to boost the development of hockey in Japan."