Search for glory days as hockey head coach continues for Beijing Olympic gold medalist Janneke Schopman

Janneke Schopman coached the USA before moving to the India camp as Analytical Coach
Janneke Schopman coached the USA before moving to the India camp as Analytical Coach

Janneke Schopman's legacy as a head coach is under scrutiny after the Indians, who failed to qualify for the Paris Olympics, went down twice to Asian rivals China in the 2023-24 Women's FIH Pro League.

Despite boasting some incredible young talent, Schopman's chargers have been outclassed by a Chinese side that won gold at the 2023 Asian Games before overtaking India in the FIH rankings following a resounding Pro League campaign.

Moreover, the USA, who failed to book a berth to Tokyo 2021 with Janneke Schopman as head coach, did so in style in 2024 by finishing second at Olympic qualifiers in Ranchi.

The Olympic glory that the former Netherlands international earned as a defender in her playing days continues to evade her in the role of a head coach.

From the glory of Beijing in 2008 to the low of Hangzhou in 2023


As a player, Janneke Schopman was part of the Netherlands team that defeated hosts China 2-0 to win the Olympic gold medal at Beijing 2008.

It was a watershed moment for both teams. The Dutch women hadn't won a hockey Olympic gold medal since 1984 but went on to stamp their dominance on the world stage after the Beijing triumph.

With gold medals in 2012 and 2021 (silver in 2016), the Netherlands women proved their hockey mettle like never before.

Meanwhile, China made the most of being an Olympic host by winning their first-ever medal in the women's hockey event in 2008. The Chinese were also the first Asian team to win an Olympic women's hockey medal.

Fifteen years after winning the historic gold medal in Beijing, Janneke Schopman's Olympic dream as a head coach was shattered by a buoyant Chinese team that walloped India in the 2023 Asian Games semifinal in Hangzhou.

Backed by a coaching set-up that is now the envy of the hockey world, China reasserted its continental supremacy after having been overtaken by the Indians as Asia's highest-ranked team during the Sjoerd Marijne era.

Alysson Annan, who coached the redoubtable Dutch women's side before being sacked in 2022, was roped in by the Chinese. Alongside Annan in the Chinese camp was the legendary Australian Ric Charlesworth and Dutch penalty corner legend Taeke Taekema.

While China's resurgence under the new coaching team did not go unnoticed, one shock result at the 2023 Asian Games upset the calculations of the Indian think tank.

Japan stunned the hosts by a 2-0 margin in the preliminary stage to climb to the top of Pool B. As a result, the Indians, who topped Pool A, faced the prospect of playing a strong Chinese side in the semifinals.

As Janneke Schopman candidly pointed out over the course of an interaction with Sportskeeda in November 2023, facing China at the semifinal stage was not something the Indians were prepared for.

The Indian Eves, who under the tutelage of Sjoerd Marijne had earned the reputation of being one of the best defensive units, crumbled 0-4 to China in what was one of their heaviest defeat in recent times.

After very nearly scripting history in the Tokyo Games, India now had to take the Olympic Qualifiers route to get to Paris 2024.

Memories of the 2019 Olympic Qualifiers were rekindled since Janneke Schopman, who was coach of the USA back then, faced Sjoerd Marijne's Indians in Bhubaneswar.

So near yet so far - Janneke Schopman's Olympic quest as USA coach

Schopman's USA side lost to India in the 2019 qualifiers
Schopman's USA side lost to India in the 2019 qualifiers

Back in 2019, Janneke Schopman's USA seemed to be doing everything right as they took on India in the first match of the two-legged Olympic Qualifier at the Kalinga Stadium.

Despite manufacturing some potent moves and creating goalscoring chances, the USA were eventually pegged back by a determined Indian side who went on the rampage.

Lillima Minz, Sharmila, and Navneet Kaur scored one apiece while ace drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur manufactured a brace to give India a 5-0 lead before Erin Matson reduced the deficit with a lone goal in the 54th minute.

Having won the first leg 5-1, the Indians appeared set to book their spot for the Tokyo Olympics before the USA turned the tables by racing away to a 4-0 lead in the second match.

An inspired 48-minute goal from Rani Rampal helped the Indians sneak through 6-5 on aggregate much to Janneke Schopman's dismay.

Interestingly, Rani Rampal, who broke American hockey hearts back in 2019, was not in Schopman's Indian team for the 2024 Ranchi qualifiers, having lost her place as a regular after the 46-year-old took charge as head coach.

Janneke Schopman's Olympic agony continues after leaving out talismanic Rani Rampal

Savita Punia led the Indian side under Schopman's tutelage
Savita Punia led the Indian side under Schopman's tutelage

The Indians, who failed to win gold at Hangzhou, had another chance to make it to the Paris Olympics via the qualifiers in Ranchi. Rani Rampal, who helped India qualify for the Tokyo Games, was a notable absentee.

After leading India to a historic fourth place at Tokyo 2021, Rani was reported to have suffered a hamstring injury following which she remained out of action for a substantial period just as Janneke Schopman became head coach.

The flamboyant striker did not find a place in the 2022 Women's World Cup or the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, appearing briefly at a European tour where she did not spend much time on the field.

The talismanic player was not part of the team at the 2023 Asian Games or the Olympic Qualifiers either, after being dropped from the core group.

Following a shock 0-1 defeat to the USA in Ranchi, India ended up facing Germany in the semifinals of the Olympic qualifiers.

A painful loss in the shootouts against Germany had the Indians playing a virtual do-or-die clash against Japan while aiming to finish among the top three in the tournament.

A 1-0 defeat to Japan proved to be the final nail in the coffin for India's Olympic hopes. At the Women's Hockey Pro League that followed, the Indians who had for long been ranked higher than China went down twice to Alysson Annan's team by an identical 1-2 margin at Bhubaneswar and Rourkela.

As a result, the Indian girls who were ranked sixth at the beginning of the year have now slipped to ninth place while China are the highest-ranked Asian team perched in the eighth spot as per the FIH.

Meanwhile, coach David Passmore ensured that the USA made it to Paris 2024 by finishing second in Ranchi after the Americans under Janneke Schopman had faltered at the final hurdle in 2019.

As India's Analytical Coach, Janneke Schopman witnessed Sjoerd Marijne's team at their very best at the Tokyo Games in 2021.

Sadly, for Schopman, who also won the 2006 World Cup and three Champions Trophy gold medals as a player, the wait for glory days as a head coach continues.

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