India women's hockey captain Rani Rampal: Hope our achievement will inspire future generations 

The skipper is already focussed to do better in the upcoming Asian Games and Asia Cup

By Soham Mukherjee
Picture by WSP - correo.jaramillo@gmail.com

The 2002 Commonwealth Games gold is widely recognised as the watershed moment for Indian women's hockey. Current India team captain Rani Rampal was just eight and prolific drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur was a year younger than her teammate when Suraj Lata Devi and co. triumphed 3-2 against England.

Almost two decades later, they were the protagonists of an achievement which is arguably greater than a Commonwealth gold, as they finished fourth at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after going down 4-3 in an edge-of-the-seat thriller against Great Britain.

"I think after 2002, women's hockey has been recognized once again. That inspired us a lot back in 2002. Hope this achievement inspires the juniors for 2028 and 2032. Hockey India has helped us get a lot of exposure trips. We played better against Argentina because we had prior experience of playing against them. Hope we can pick up momentum after this," stated Rampal during a media interaction.

However, India's women's hockey team are not willing to rest on their laurels and they have already set their sights on the Asian Games and the Asian Cup next year.

"We will like to qualify for the World Cup after performing well in the Asia Cup," said the skipper instantly when quizzed about her next targets who was visibly distraught after the heartbreaking loss on Friday.

The 26-year-old hockey star is happy that they turned around their fortunes after three chastening defeats in their first three matches against Netherlands, Great Britain and Germany.

"It is definitely a good performance. In Rio, we had no experience. But we were pretty confident for Tokyo. To be in the semifinals is a big achievement. Maybe we need some more time to realise the feat. We have sacrificed a lot to achieve this physically and mentally. The future is bright youngsters. Maybe they can use it for the future Olympics in 2028 and 2032.

"I am very proud of each and every single player of the team. We played well against Netherlands and Germany. Against Ireland, it was pretty intense and finally, we scored that goal. It gave us the courage to do better. Against Australia, we knew it would be difficult. They are the former Olympic champions but we gave our all."

While Gurjit Kaur is still struggling to get over the loss she remains hopeful that the team will do much better in the upcoming assignments.

"We were losing 2-0 and then we came back. We played like a team. It is more painful because we came so close to it. This has been a good lesson for us and hopefully, we can perform even better in the future," she stated.

The drag-flicker was struggling to find the net in the group stage matches but she regained her mojo at the knockouts and scored some crucial goals including the winner against Australia.

"Every dog has its day. We had 14 penalty corners and the opposition first rushers and the goalkeeper were doing very well in the first few games. I came back and after watching the videos started working on my weaknesses. So that helped me.

"I never think about the past. I focus on my skills and I try to do give my best. I was not being able to score previously but during that penalty corner (against Australia) I just thought about putting the ball into the net. If the support continues for Indian women's hockey, we will do even better in the future," she stated.