The last time the senior Indian women’s hockey team won a gold medal in a major international event was way back in 2002, at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England. That set the tone for the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Chak de India which went on to become a blockbuster in 2007.
It’s party time: Members of the Indian women’s hockey team make for a happy picture as they celebrate their Rio Olympics qualification in New Delhi yesterday. Pic/PTI. Inset. Hockey India president Narinder Batra
Less than a decade later, Indian women’s hockey once again has a shot at history, having qualified for the Rio Olympics. And despite their trophyless cupboard since 2002, Hockey India president Narinder Batra is confident that the team is capable of a podium finish at the quadrennial Games.
The last time the Indian women’s team featured in the Olympics was way back in 1980, where they finished fourth in the Cold War-affected edition of the Games in Moscow. Recently they finished fifth at the Hockey World League Semi-finals, and their Olympic berth was confirmed when Spain lost to England in the semis of the Euro Hockey Championships on Friday.
“Some critics claim that the Indian women have qualified luckily, and due to a system that favours Indian hockey. But I would like to clarify here that FIH (International Hockey Federation) is not doing Indian hockey any favours. It’s a fair qualification process and the girls have worked hard to deserve their place in Rio. Why should anybody think of favouring us,” Batra told
mid-day over the phone from New Delhi yesterday. When reminded that some of world hockey’s chief sponsors are Indian companies, Batra said that these things do not matter in international sport.
Insisting that World No 13 India are going to the 12-team Rio event only to make up the numbers, Batra said the women have the potential of returning with a medal.
“The Indian women’s team is not going to Rio for time pass. A medal is realistically a big possibility. Our girls are very good when it comes to speed and skill. The only department they are lacking in is fitness and an elaborate plan to help them attain peak fitness in time for Rio is being worked upon. We will organise more international tours for them too in the run-up to next year’s Olympics,” added Batra.