Asiad Hockey: Indian women eye gold to book Olympic berth

India will have to finish in the top two to make the semifinals.

Former champion India will look to seal Tokyo Olympics spot when the 18th Asian Games gets underway on Sunday.   -  Getty Images

Former champion India will look to seal Tokyo Olympics spot when the 18th Asian Games gets underway, here on Sunday.

The Indian women’s team had bagged the top honours at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi and ended runner-up to South Korea in 1998 in Bangkok.

It has managed to return with at least a medal in all the nine editions, including a bronze at the 2014 Games in Incheon, South Korea.

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World No. 9 India is the top-ranked side in the competition and will open its campaign against host Indonesia, ranked as low as 64, in a Pool B match here on Sunday.

It will face Korea, Thailand, Kazakhstan and Indonesia and will have to finish in the top two to make the semifinals. India’s real test would be against defending champion Korea (ranked 10).

Meanwhile, both China (ranked 11) and Japan (ranked 14) are in Pool A and India will only clash with them if it makes it to the last four.

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Rani Rampal and Co. are still recovering from their heart-breaking World Cup quarterfinal loss to Ireland. It was a great chance for India to recreate history and secure its first World Cup semifinal spot in 44 years but it was not to be as it lost  1-3  via shoot-off. Skipper Rani Rampal, Monika and Navjot Kaur failed to convert their respective chances.

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Prior to the Games, the low-intensity camp in Bengaluru has allowed the team to regroup. The team management, including scientific advisor Wayne Lombard, chose to show the players, through a video footage, how excellent their defence was and how they executed most of the plans. It definitely had a positive impact on the morale of the team.

“I feel that this is a great way to forget the World Cup disappointment. If I keep thinking about the World Cup, and it affects our performance at the Asian Games, then that resentment will stay in my head throughout my life,” said Rani.

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It remains to be seen how this side, guided by Dutch Sjoerd Marijne, handles nerves at the business end of the tournament.

Both the men’s and women’s team had reached the finals in 1998 but clinching the double gold remained elusive with only the men’s team emerging champion in Bangkok.

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