India's Salima Tete (right) in action against The Netherlands.

"At the Olympics, we always found a way to push the ball forward" - Indian women's hockey team midfielder Salima 

Hari Kishore M
FEATURED WRITER

The recently concluded Tokyo Olympics provided the Indian women’s hockey team with plenty of good memories, earned them a piece of history and tasked them with a huge learning curve. For veterans like skipper Rani Rampal, Savita Punia and Vandana Katariya, the event was a feather in their illustrious caps, while for youngsters like Salima Tete, it was an exhilarating learning experience.

The Indian women’s hockey team got off to a disastrous start, losing their first three matches and were pushed against the wall. Bouncing back in emphatic fashion, the team won their last two matches to storm into the quarter-finals. They got the better of Australia 1-0 and then played in their first-ever Olympic semi-final.

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Although the Indian women’s hockey team lost to Argentina in the semis and the subsequent bronze medal playoff match to Great Britain, the team had put the nation on a pedestal and shown signs of a bright future.

For 19-year-old Salima Tete, who was playing in her first Olympics, the Tokyo sojourn was filled with immense learning. She played an integral role in the midfield and supported both the forwards and defense to up the ante when it mattered.

The young hockey midfielder said the team was understandably dejected after losing the bronze medal by a whisker, but after the brouhaha had died down, the positives had come to light. She added:

"Our performance in Tokyo is slowly starting to sink in now. We were really dejected when we lost to Great Britain, but now we are seeing the positives from the tournament. We may not have won a medal, but we have certainly gained a lot of confidence from the way we played in Tokyo and it's definitely going to help us to grow as a team and produce much better results in the future.”
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Indian women’s hockey team gunning for more glory

Salima said there were a lot of takeaways from the quadrennial Games and spoke highly about the positive and never-give-up attitude of the Indian women's hockey team. It is these traits that the team will be banking on to reach greater heights, given the action-packed season ahead and a shorter Olympic cycle to the 2024 Paris Olympics. Salima said:

“We always found a way to push the ball forward and attack our opponents in the Olympics. We created many goal-scoring opportunities and ensured that we utilized our penalty corners too. We gave everything we had on the pitch and never gave up, no matter what the situation was. The never-give-in attitude helped us to stay in the moment and keep fighting against our opponents until the final whistle was blown."

Playing at the prestigious Olympics at such a tender age is sure to put Salima in good stead for the future. The hockey midfielder will look to imbibe more of the fighting spirit, team work and other qualities that could help her become the frontrunner of the Indian women’s hockey team in the near future. She said:

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"The Olympics are the biggest tournament for any sportsperson and I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to perform for my country at the biggest of stages. I have learned a lot by playing in high-pressure situations and I am certainly going to use my learnings in the upcoming competitions. One learns a lot when one is against the best and we are very happy with the way we gave a tough fight to each of our opponents in the knock-out stage of the Tokyo Games.”

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Edited by Sandeep Banerjee
 
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