Asiad Hockey: Indian women eye gold to book Olympic berth
Jakarta, Aug 18 (PTI) Former champions India will have to recover from their medal-less World Cup campaign as they look to clinch the title at the 18th Asian Games and seal a Tokyo Olympics berth when the women's hockey competition begins, here tomorrow.
Indian women's team had won the gold medal at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi and ended runner-up to South Korea in 1998 in Bangkok.
They have managed to return with at least a medal in all the nine editions, including a bronze at the 2014 Games at Incheon, South Korea.
At world no 9, Indian women's team are the top-ranked side in the competition and will open its campaign against hosts Indonesia, ranked as low as 64, in a Pool B match here tomorrow.
However, India's real test would be against defending champions Korea (ranked 10), China and Japan.
Both China (ranked 11) and Japan (ranked 14) are in Pool A and India will not clash with them before the semifinals.
Clubbed in pool B, India will face their toughest test in the league stage against Korea on August 25. They play Kazakhstan on August 21 and conclude the Pool engagement with a clash against Thailand on August 27.
Rani Rampal and Co. are still recovering from their heart-breaking World Cup quarterfinal loss to Ireland.
The women's team had entered the World Cup quarterfinals after 40 years but the defeat against Ireland via penalty shootout is still rankling the Indian players, especially captain Rampal, who had missed her shootout stroke for the first time in her career.
She had locked herself inside her hotel room, finding it difficult to digest the missed chance.
It was a personal failure for her and Rampal will look to set things right by guiding the team to a title win and earning India a place in the Tokyo Games as the Continental champions.
Prior to the Games, the low-intensity camp in Bengaluru, which focused more on recovery after the World Cup, coupled with some sensible talk by the team management has allowed the team to regroup.
The team management, including team's scientific advisor Wayne Lombard, chose to show the players, through the video footage, how excellent their defense was and how they executed most of the plans.
It definitely had a positive effect on the morale of the team.
"I feel that this is a great way to forget the World Cup disappointment. If I keep thinking about the World Cup, and it affects our performance at the Asian Games, then that resentment will stay in my head throughout my life," said Rani.
As India looks to put behind the World Cup disappointment, it remains to be seen how this side, guided by Dutch Sjoerd Marijne, handles nerves at business end of the tournament.
Both the men's and women's team had reached the finals in 1998 but clinching the double gold remained elusive for India in Bangkok with only the men's team emerging champions.
Considering the strength of both the Indian teams and their opponents, the historic double could be a real possibility this time.