By Savita, Indian women’s hockey team goalkeeper
The Olympic Games will always be the pinnacle tournament for any sportsperson. All of us dream of not just participating in the competition, but also of winning a medal for our country. It was fantastic to take part at the Rio Olympics in 2016. We had qualified for the big competition after 36 years and we were very excited to be in the midst of the best athletes from around the world. The feeling was unparalleled when we were soaking in the entire environment at Rio. The buzz of the fans, spreading colour around the different sporting venues lifts and motivates all sportspersons instantly.
We started off decently at Rio, drawing 2-2 against Japan after being 0-2 down at the 28th minute. Rani and Lilima Minz got us back into the match with brilliant goals each. However, we suffered huge losses in the following matches and it was absolutely heart breaking for us to be knocked out in the group stage. I feel our team was raw at that time and we made a few mistakes. Now, we have a much stronger side and I am sure we will be able to put the nightmare in Rio behind us. The experience at the Olympic Games will certainly hold us in good stead for the next one in Tokyo.
Personally, for me, I attained a lot of confidence after the match against Japan for fifth place at the Women’s Hockey World League Semi Final in Antwerp in 2015. Japan created many chances to score, but I held my ground and managed to save everything that came my way. I will never forget that match. I was in the zone and felt that I could take on any team anywhere in the world. I had no fear inside me at all. We won the game 1-0, courtesy of Rani’s strike, and that victory eventually helped us qualify for the Rio Olympics.
We have certainly changed the way we operate on and off the field since the 2016 Olympics. We have recorded great victories in the last four years which includes Asia Cup 2017 and FIH Women’s Series Finals Hiroshima 2019. It was absolutely amazing to book a berth at the Tokyo Olympics through the FIH Olympic Qualifiers 2019 in front of our home crowd. We desperately needed one goal in the second leg match against the USA and Rani stepped up for us once again in the last quarter of the match. We never stopped believing in ourselves and that was the key aspect in our game on that day.
I think we have a great chance to make history at the Tokyo Olympics. We have a good mix of experience and youngsters in our side and all our bases are covered. We have competed against top teams in the recent past and we have a strong belief in our abilities. If we play to our potential, we will surely win a medal for India at the Olympics next year.”