Rani Rampal has been at the thick of action, playing a decisive role in securing India women hockey team a spot at two successive Olympics. Her goal against Japan in 2015 guided India to their first Summer Games after a gap of 36 years. This time too, captain Rani made the difference, as her goal in the second match of the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers against USA helped India qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“It was an amazing feeling to have secured our berth at the Tokyo Olympics 2020,” Rampal said. “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.”
She continued, “I managed to keep my composure during the turn and the finish, and it was a surreal experience when I was hugging my teammates with joy.”
At the Rio 2016 Olympics, India women hockey team failed to make a mark at the competition, finishing last. However, Rani says 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 which was good to see. 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,” said Rani.
The next Women’s Hockey World Cup will be co-hosted by Netherlands and Spain in 2022, and Rani spoke about the prospects of participating in the tournament. “We had a good campaign at the World Cup last year in England, and to have made it to the Quarter-Finals and losing out to Ireland in Penalty Shootout was disappointing, but that shows that we were just one win away from making it to the Semi-Finals.”
“We will now have the opportunity to complete unfinished business when we start preparing for the next World Cup also which takes place in Netherlands and Spain. The latter being a place where we have played a lot in the recent couple of years, and we know the conditions well. It is a target we will have for the next four years certainly, but first we look at the Tokyo Olympics, and then after that we can focus on qualifying for the next World Cup,” Rani said.
The Indian Women’s Team is currently on a break and will regroup for a conditioning camp starting 18 November 2019 in Bengaluru.