India skipper recalls her winning goal against USA in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers
Women’s hockey team skipper Rani Rampal on Monday said securing India’s passage into the 2020 Olympics with her decisive goal in the qualifier was a “surreal experience”.
Rani scored the all-important goal during the recent clash against USA in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers in Odisha as India narrowly 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 sceptical 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.”
The qualification done, a podium finish at the Tokyo Games 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 4-1, but qualified courtesy the team’s comprehensive 5-1 win in the opening encounter.
Interestingly, in 2015 when Indian the 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 com
However, Rani said that her team has improved vastly since Rio. “We did not have a great tournament in Rio, but we got the experience of playing at an 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. But 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,” added Rani.
The Indian women’s team is currently on a break and will regroup for a conditioning camp, which begins in Bengaluru from November 18.