Poonam Rani is one of the experienced players around in the Rio Olympics-bound Indian women hockey team. The 23-year-old Hisar girl has seen many ‘highs’ – she was a member of the bronze-winning 2014 Incheon Asian Games team as well as a member of the silver-winning 2013 Asian Champions Trophy team, but nothing can beat the ‘highs’ of the team qualifying for the Olympics after a hiatus of 36 years, via the Hockey World League Tourney in Belgium last year.
Employed with Indian Railways, Poonam has also played in two Commonwealth Games (2014 and 2010 editions) as well as the 2010 Asian Games. The handy striker, who made her senior international debut in a Four -Nation Tourney in Netherlands in 2008, forms a pretty solid forwardline alongside Rani Rampal and Vandana Katariya. She spoke about her Olympic preparations and much more in an exclusive interview.
Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
Q: How would you assess India’s preparations for the Rio Olympics?
We are doing very hard work for the Rio Olympics. We don't want to miss this opportunity and we will give our best in the Olympics.
Q: The Indian women hockey team has made it to the Summer Olympics after 36 years – how important it is for India to perform well in Rio?
It’s very important for us to perform well in the Rio Olympics. This was our dream that we play in the Olympics and India have many expectations from us, surely we will not disappoint India.
Q: Will the Indian team miss the experienced Ritu Rani?
Ritu is our senior player. She has a lot of experience, she was the captain of India for 4 years. But we will handle the situation and will show everyone that we are a very good team without her.
Q: The Indian forward line have a lot of experience – you, Rani and Vandana have been playing for a long time – what expectations do you have for Rio?
We all three have played more than 100 international matches and know the skills of foreign players, in terms of how to score goals against good teams. We will play like a team and show our best skills in Olympics.
Q: Which is your most memorable international goal and why?
I have scored many memorable goals but I do not have any favourite goal because many goals lead India to victory and all those goals are memorable for me.
Q: Who is your role model?
My father is my role model. I saw him doing very hard work in the fields for my family and now it’s my time to make him and family proud.
Q: Tell us a bit about your family?
I belong to a rural family. My father is a farmer and my mother is a housewife. I have one elder brother. My family has fully supported me for hockey that's why I m here in Rio. I started playing in my village. Jaggi sir was my first coach. Then I went to Sirsa for some time and at last I play in Hisar under Azad Sir. From there I start playing in India.
Q: Can India hope to finish in top six?
We can definitely finish in the top-6 – that's our first goal for Olympics You can expect a medal, not just a top-6 finish . We are working hard on our game. We are practicing day and night for Rio I promise India that we will not disappoint our hockey fans.Published 01 Aug 2016, 09:31 IST