Hyderabad: Jai Ho India. It was a wow moment for the jubilant and excited Indian team when the final hooter went. India won 1-0 against the mighty Australia in the women’s hockey match in the Tokyo Olympics. A day after Indian men’s hockey team entered the semifinal after a gap of 49 years, their women counterparts created history on Monday by entering their maiden Olympic semifinals.
Having made it to the quarterfinals on the back of their 4-3 close victory over South Africa in the last league match and Great Britain doing India a favour by defeating Ireland in their league match, the Rani Rampal-led side will now take on Argentina in semifinals on Wednesday.
The pressure was on Australia and chief coach Sjoerd Marijne said he stressed the importance of staying in the moment. “After we qualified for the Quarters, I told the team about the importance of being in the moment and not thinking about what-ifs and that is very difficult for an athlete because there are many things that are constantly playing in your mind, things like what if we win, what if we don’t win, what if I don’t stop the ball, so what I did is showed the team a movie and the film is about staying in the moment and I think that made a big difference in this match against Australia,’’ he said.
The Australians had a first chance to take a shot at the goal. But India’s Gurjit Kaur’s 22nd minute goal off a short corner sounded the death knell for the Aussies. For the next 38 minutes, the stoic Indian defence thwarted, teased and frustrated the Aussies. As Sardar Singh, former Indian captain, said the team persevered and kept their 1-0 lead to make it to the Olympic semi-finals.
Although the World No.2 Australians harassed the Indian defence, goalkeeper Savita did a PR Sreejesh. She stood like a wall with the other defenders, led by Grace Ekka, to spoil the Aussies.
India’s previous best performance in the Olympics came way back in the 1980 Moscow Games where they finished fourth out of six teams. Marijne rightly said: This match also proves dreams can come true. If you start believing and you keep believing and you keep working hard, things can happen. You have to do the work to fulfill your dreams and that’s what we did today.”
Nidhi Nandoori, former member of the silver medal winning Indian squad from 1998 Bangkok Asian Games and wife of N Mukesh Kumar, said it was a day to remember in India’s history.
“We have qualified for the semis for the first time in the Olympics. It is a big achievement. Our goalkeeper Savita was outstanding. She held her ground strong and delivered for India,” she added.
She also credited improved fitness levels for the success. “The fitness levels were very good. Their hard work and training in the last year or so was visible on the field. This team is in the best of shape. Fitness makes a lot of difference.”
She also revealed that there were not many expectations when India entered the Olympics.
“We had no expectations from the women’s team. The way they started with losses was also not ideal. But they improved with each game. This win over Australia and a semis berth will script a new chapter in Indian hockey. People had forgotten women’s hockey. Now it is revival time,” she concluded.
Now you can get handpicked stories from Telangana Today on Telegram everyday. Click the link to subscribe.