India was confident of a good performance in Junior Asia Cup, says women's hockey team captain

Suman Devi Thoudam says the COVID-19 pandemic halted her team’s preparations for the Junior Asia Cup in Japan.

Suman Devi Thoudam led her team to victory in the three-nations tournament held in Australia in December, 2019. - HOCKEY INDIA

The Indian junior women’s hockey team was confident of a good performance at the Junior Asia Cup in Kakamigahara, Japan, before the COVID-19 pandemic intervened, according to team captain Suman Devi Thoudam.

The Indian team had been preparing for the tournament at a national coaching camp in the Sports Authority of India campus in Bengaluru. A win in the competition, which was scheduled to begin on April 6, would have given Suman’s side a berth in the FIH Junior World Cup, 2021. “We had shaped up well as a team and with some good performances last year, we were quite confident of a good show in the Junior Asia Cup in Japan,” Suman said in an interaction with Hockey India.

Like the senior men’s and women’s team members, Suman stayed back at SAI, Bengaluru, for more than three months.

“My tickets were booked for March 22 but due to the Janta Curfew I couldn't travel. Though my tickets were rebooked for 24 March, I decided to stay back in SAI because I felt it was safer there and there was a lot of uncertainty at the time,” she said.

Support from senior players

Elaborating on how she coped with the confinement, she said, “At first, I was scared and felt that there was so much uncertainty. Myself and three others who were going through rehab due to their injury were the only ones from the junior team who had stayed back in SAI during this period and it probably would have been difficult if not for the constant support from senior players and Wayne Lombard (Scientific Advisor).”

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She added: “I focussed on core strengthening workouts which could be done indoors and some conditioning work which Wayne used to give us. Also, he would tell us that it's important to improve our immunity and stay fit to fight this pandemic which made us motivated through this period.”

Suman returned home in Imphal, Manipur, on June 19 and had to undergo institutional quarantine for two weeks. She will further remain in home quarantine for another two weeks. “Now, I just look forward to spending time with my family,” she said.

Father’s influence

Suman said her father, a carpenter in Imphal, had a big influence on her in her career. Despite financial constraints, he always encouraged his daughter to make her own mark in the sport. In 2014, she was picked by the Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy where she further honed her skills as a player.

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“My father has been the biggest influence in my life. He has been extremely supportive and wherever I play in Manipur, he comes to watch me. At first, I never liked hockey but I was quick to make friends at the Seyo Club and when they said if I go regularly for practice, I would be given a stick and a ball for myself, I was motivated to continue. Getting my own stick was like the biggest incentive for me at that time,” she said.

The junior team now awaits a call-up to return to SAI, Bengaluru. “There is a lot of openness in the team where we discuss our strengths and weaknesses and each of us have improved individually as well as a team over these past years. When we are called back, we will refocus on our goal to do well at the Junior Asia Cup,” Suman said.

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