Skipper Rani Rampal believes that improving physical fitness has been key to the recent success of the Indian women’s hockey team. Last year marked an eventful season for the Indian women’s team by booking its ticket to the Olympic 2020, where for the first time in the history of the game, it will make consecutive appearances.
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The team also clinched honorable victories against quality teams like Spain, Ireland, Japan, China, Korea, among others, last year, while beating higher-ranked teams like New -Zealand and Great Britain at the Olympic 2020.
“The start of the Olympic year was good. Especially because last year we managed to qualify for Tokyo. Since then, the graph of women’s hockey has been going well. In the last three years, the team has been very successful, “Rani told PTI.
The skipper feels South African Wayne Patrick Lombard, who was appointed as the scientific advisor of the women’s team in 2017, has made a significant contribution in improving the fitness level of the players, something the team had lacked previously.
“The mixture of fitness and skill has been great. Previous we used to lag behind in fitness. Nonetheless, that has better in the last three years. Wayne Lombard has functioned really hard with the side, personally and separately,” she supposed.
“In today’s time if the suitability is good we can play well but if there is no suitability even the skill won’t help,” she supposed.
Rani, who currently has more than 240 caps for India, feels the improved level of fitness has brought a belief in the players that they can beat any team irrespective of the rankings.
“It has boosted the team’s confidence. They are not scared of facing any side. Also because these days ranking doesn’t mean much, whoever performs better on that given day wins,” she supposed.
We are concentrating on our game more than others. Our competition every day is with ourselves. How we can perform better and better. Former Dutch hockey player Janneke Schopman has joined the Indian women’s side as an analytical coach last month and Rani feels the Olympic gold medalist has made breakthroughs in her very first tour.
“She herself is an Olympic gold medalist so she is convincingly aware of the side, how the players feel. She has also aided us on the mental side. She tells us small, small things that have helped us a lot in the New Zealand tour,” Rani supposed.
Talking about the Tokyo Olympic, the skipper said the team needs to take one game at a time and avoid being overwhelmed. We have to utilize all the chances that we get. We can’t break the structure, if we break that, we lose.
“We will take one game at a time in the pool stage. We have to plan match by match, not rush ourselves saying that we need to win all five matches in the pool stage and once we reach the quarterfinals it is anyone’s game,” she supposed.
On the individual front, Rani, who has been a member of the national team since she was a 15-year-old, developed the first-ever hockey player to win the admired ”World Games Athlete of the Year” award last month and the 25-year-old feels it is the main credit for women’s hockey.
“Pleased to be the first women’s hockey player to win the prize. This is the biggest credit for women’s hockey and it feels nice when women’s hockey gets such a credit,” she concluded.