Playing at the Olympics is something very familiar for India’s women’s hockey team’s veteran midfielder, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam. The Manipur player captained the team at the Rio Olympics and is optimistic of India standing a fair chance of making it to the podium in Tokyo.
The Indian women’s team qualified for the Olympics for only the third time last year. Having made appearances in 1980 and 2016, this will be the first instance of the Indian women’s team playing in consecutive Olympics.
The 28-year-old Sushila Chanu refuses to believe that the girls will be content with just an appearance. Even though this year hasn’t had much to offer, the girls are putting in the hard yards to shine in Japan.
“It has been a strange year for everyone. As a player of the national team, I have always been used to a fast-paced environment, where we play match after match, without getting much time to ponder over things,” said Sushila Chanu as quoted by Hockey India.
“However, now that we've had so much time on our hands, I've been able to look back on a lot of things, and also prepare for the next phase of my career. We have the opportunity to create history by not just playing in consecutive Olympics for the first time, but also by making it to the podium," she added.
The Indian women’s hockey team’s last assignment was the tour of New Zealand in January, where India won three out of five matches. Ever since the lockdown, both the men’s and women’s squads have been training hard at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre in Bengaluru, with a six-week break in between.
Sushila Chanu, who is among 24 women’s players training till December 12, is optimistic that the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead next year, as planned.
"Like the rest of the sporting fraternity, we are also hopeful that the Tokyo Olympics will take place next year. It is the biggest tournament for all of us, and we have been working hard for the past four years to make sure we can achieve our goals when the tournament happens," said Chanu.
Coaching staff has ensured we remain focused: Sushila Chanu
Despite the challenges involved in keeping fit under these circumstances, Sushila Chanu has lauded the efforts of Hockey India and SAI for providing them with the best facilities. The dedicated coaching team has made sure that the players continue to be in peak shape and be ready for competitions whenever the pandemic eases.
"Certainly, there are challenges involved when it comes to keeping ourselves in top form, but our coaching staff has ensured that we are more focused than ever and are keeping ourselves in the best shape and rhythm to get back to competitive hockey whenever circumstances allow," concluded Chanu.