‘Every team targets medal at the Olympics and we also want to win it. Our prime focus is to clear the pool game and reach the quarter-finals first,’ said India Hockey captain Rani Rampal.
Q. You played an important role when India qualified for the Rio Olympics after 36 years. This time as well you scored for the team that led to Olympic qualification…
A. It is a good feeling when you get to represent your country and make sure the team qualifies for the Olympics. Hockey is a team game. Every individual wants to make a contribution so that the team does well. I contributed for my team and our hard work has paid off. Obviously, you are happy to put that extra effort for your team. I can say we have qualified for the Olympics but we are not happy with our performance.
Q. The team is currently training in Bengaluru. How is the practice going?
A. Our practice is going well. We have analysed our performance in the two qualifiers we played. We are working on the areas we need to improve in the next eight months before Olympics. We are looking at our strengths and what we did right so that we can repeat our performance.
Q. Any particular area you might have identified and working on?
A. Of course. Our fitness camp is underway at the moment. We are working on our fitness right now because our focus will be to work on the technical aspect of the game next year. This camp is entirely about strength training and conditioning. There are so many areas we need to work on. We have to know how to balance between attack and defense because hockey has become a very fast game. If you are going for the attack, then your counter control should also be good. We are working on the conversion as well.
Q. India ended 12th at Rio Olympics when the team qualified after 36 years. What according to you is different this time?
A. We have a very different team now. There have been a lot of changes in terms of fitness. Players are fitter now. We lacked in fitness and game awareness at Rio. No one had a clue about Olympics and the pressure that comes with it. Now we have a bunch of players who have already played in the Olympics and fitness has improved a lot. Tokyo Olympics will see a completely different Indian side.
Q. How has your coach, Sjoerd Marijne, contributed to the team’s cause?
A. Sjoerd Marijne has worked a lot with our team. Our scientific advisor Wayne Lombard has improved our overall fitness. Marijne has improved the structure of our team. He focuses on every individual and makes sure he understands everyone. He motivates us. We were conceding goals in the qualifiers, but he motivated us and made every member happy saying that we’ve still got time and we haven’t lost the match yet. Marijne uplifts the entire team when we go through a rough patch.
Q. Were you under pressure going into the match against US?
A. We were not under pressure in the second match. In fact, we were confident of a win. Everyone knew that US had lost three points in the first match and we were expecting an aggressive game from them. We conceded goal and got stuck for some time. It took time to recover from that. It is good that we didn’t give up and fought hard in the third and fourth quarter. We performed because of our fitness as it’s not easy to perform in the third and fourth quarter of the game. We would have given up, but we fought. We have worked very hard for a long time and couldn’t afford to leave a chance like this. Nobody knows what is going to happen in the next four years.
Q. Expectations have increased after the win. Are you confident of a good performance in Tokyo?
A. I know that people have started following women’s hockey. Interest has grown for the game. We are confident of a good show in the Olympics. People from all over the country are with us. We are training hard for it.
Every team targets medal in the Olympics and we also want to win a medal. Our prime focus is to clear the pool game and reach quarter-finals. It’s anybody’s game after the quarter-finals. It is difficult to predict which team will win. Our first target is to reach the quarter-finals.