Indian women's hockey team focused on Olympic medal, says midfielder Namita

The postponement of Tokyo Olympics to 2021 does not affect India women's hockey team's aim for a medal finish, says midfielder Namita Toppo.

A meniscus injury during the 2018 Asian Games ruled midfielder Namita Toppo out of action until September 2019.   -  Hockey India

Indian women's hockey team midfielder Namita Toppo said on Thursday that the postponement of Tokyo Olympics will help the team as it aims for its first medal at the Olympics.

"Our target was always to win an Olympic medal, and even with the postponement, that does not change. It definitely gives us more time to be prepared for next year, and to perform really well," Namita said.

"I feel our team is also fortunate enough to not have any ageing players, and this group of players has been playing together for a long time, and I believe one more year of experience will only help us in achieving our goal," she added.

Namita, who commands the midfield for the World No. 9 Indian Women's Hockey team, returned to the side after a lengthy injury lay-off only in September 2019, and has since focused on catching up to speed with her teammates.

"I was really struggling when I was away from the team. It was close to 9-10 months that I was out of the side. I had injured my meniscus, which basically means I had torn my knee cartilage during the Asian Games 2018. I was really worried at first because I was not sure how long it would take for me to come back, especially with the Olympics only a couple of years away. But when I look back now, I think that lengthy spell on the sidelines made me stronger," said Namita.

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"Initially it was really tough because I would have immense pain, and would wake up at night, and start to overthink. I believe my teammates and coaches played a huge role in making sure I was in the right frame of mind," she added.

As she targets her second consecutive Olympic Games, Namita reflected on her journey back to the Indian team through difficult times.

"At first I didn't realise I would be spending about 9-10 months outside, but our scientific advisor Wayne Lombard told me that the type of meniscal injury I had was accompanied by some early onset degeneration - which made things complicated, and it increased my recovery period. It was tough because I would keep thinking if I would ever make it back to the squad. But I spoke to my teammates who had spent similar periods on the treatment table, and I would get some sort of strength," said the 24-year old.

The Rourkela native recalled the time when she finally made a comeback into the national team squad for the tour of England in September 2019.

"When I was finally fit and had regained my touch and sharpness in the national camp, and was included in the squad for England tour, I was really happy because I had set a target for myself and I was able to achieve it. I wanted to help my side qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, and playing in the England tour gave me a chance to prove to chief coach that I should be in the team for the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers, which were to take place in November 2019," said Namita.

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