A first is always special and Indian women's hockey midfielder Neha Goyal is all pumped up to make her first Olympics count. The Haryana-born player has been in the thick of things in the recent past and is loving her role in midfield.
In an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda, Neha Goyal explained that while there is pressure on her to perform in her first-ever Olympics, she has made sure her game does the talking.
“I have got experience of playing with big international teams like Germany, Argentina, New Zealand etc in the recent past and I am going to carry that experience into the Olympics. I know I am a little nervous, as this is my first time on such a stage, but I am also confident of making my game talk,” said Goyal, who is at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) hockey camp in Bengaluru.
The 24-year-old stated that her role in the team as a midfielder is an exciting one as she feels like an all-rounder.
“I have to constantly feed the strikers and also protect the defense. The prospect of giving a striker a beautiful pass to score a goal is what excites me the most. I like the feeling of being an all-rounder in the team,” Neha Goyal added.
The hockey camp at the SAI campus is overseen regularly by chief coach Sjoerd Marijne, assistant coach Ankitha BS and analyst Janneke Schopman.
Training sessions are top-notch: Neha Goyal
Having practiced a lot on connecting the ball properly, Neha Goyal feels training sessions have done a world of good to her game.
“We have high-intensity training sessions, also called Red Sessions, in the morning where it is action-packed. There is no room for any error as our endurance and skill is stretched to the hilt. We simulate match situations and execute them. The evening sessions are with low intensity, also called Green Sessions, where we focus more on the fitness part. This also helps in recovery very easily,” Neha Goyal explained.
Throwing more light on practice sessions, Neha Goyal said the discussions post-practice are very enriching.
“The coaches explain what we have done, room for improvement and what to do next. What I find very good here is the way the communication is between the coaches and players, which is excellent. We know what to do and what our expectations are. For now, due to the restrictions and the pandemic, we don’t have as many discussions indoors, but we make sure we have the best outdoors,” said the 75-times capped midfielder.
The players are helped by physiotherapist Nivedita Chopra, masseuse Radhika Chaudhari and video analyst Amutha Prakash during their training sessions.
"It will undoubtedly be a tough competition at the Olympics" - Neha Goyal
Neha Goyal, who represents the Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) on the Indian domestic circuit, said the pressure will be on higher-ranked teams in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics 2021.
“It will undoubtedly be a tough competition at the Olympics as all top teams, with rich experience, play. For one thing, I can say, the pressure will be on these top-ranked teams as they have a lot at stake. We have nothing much to lose, we are confident of our strengths and are ready to give our best,” she said.
India will start their Olympics campaign against the Netherlands on July 24 before playing Germany two days later. They will then be up against Great Britain on July 28 and face Ireland and South Africa on July 30 and 31 respectively. The knock-out stages commence on August 2.