The Indian women's hockey team captain Rani opened up on the Indian team's record fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics and said that it has given motivation to the players to perform better the next time.
Speaking on a Hockey India podcast, Rani said 2021 proved to be a good year for the team despite missing out on the Olympic medal.
"2021 proved to be a good year for us. We could have won a medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games. We will always feel the pain of not being able to do that, because we were so close. It was hard to accept it at first," she said.
"But we finished 12th in 2016 Rio Olympics but this time at Tokyo, we finished fourth. So, it has been a big growth for women's hockey. When we returned, the Indian fans appreciated our efforts. We felt we did something good that the fans are giving us so much love and respect. This gives us the confidence to do even better in the future," Rani said.
Tokyo Olympics - a learning experience for hockey team
Rani spoke about how the team gained confidence from a 1-0 win over Australia in the quarter-finals and felt they could beat World No. 2 Argentina in the semi-final to earn a podium finish.
"I feel we could have won the semi-final match against Argentina. We took an early lead in the match and put them under pressure. We executed everything the coaches told us but conceding penalty corners cost us," Rani said.
"But I think it was a huge learning experience for all the players in the team who will get an understanding of how to remain calm in knockout matches in big tournaments. We will surely get better next time," Rani added.
Rani further opened up on the difficulties faced by the team during the pandemic before the Tokyo Olympics, and expressed gratitude to the coaching staff, Hockey India, and SAI for taking good care of them during the lockdown.
"For every athlete in the world, the past two years have been quite challenging due to COVID-19. Most of the athletes were at their peak before the Tokyo Olympics were postponed. A lot of doubts crept up in athletes when we were placed in the bio-bubble. It was becoming difficult to push yourself mentally, physically and emotionally at the time," Rani said.