TOKYO: The Indian women’s hockey team put up a spirited performance throughout the Tokyo Olympics. After going down 5-1 to the Netherlands, 2-0 to Germany and 4-1 to Great Britain in their first three Pool matches, the Indian team gained the momentum in their last two Pool matches and registered victories against Ireland (1-0) and South Africa (4-3) to book a place in the Quarter-Finals. Facing a formidable opponent in Australia in the knockout stage, the Indian team accepted the challenge head-on and went on to script history when they defeated the Australians to book a place in the Olympics Semi-Final for the first time.
The Indian team put up a strong fight against Argentina in the semi-final, but couldn't manage to get past them as they went down 2-1. With a medal hope still alive, the Indian Women's team played their hearts out in the Bronze medal match against Great Britain on Friday, however, they couldn't achieve a podium finish after coming tantalizingly close. The Rio Olympics Gold medallists registered a 4-3 victory over the Indians at the Oi Hockey Stadium on Friday.
Post the heart-breaking loss, the chief coach Sjoerd Marijne told the team that they have won something more than a medal, "We showed a fighting spirit in the Bronze medal match against Great Britain, but it wasn't enough. We gave away too many PCs and in these kinds of matches, you have to convert all your PCs into goals and I must say Gurjit (Kaur) did really well. I told the team that we didn't win a medal, but we achieved something bigger than a medal and that's inspiring an entire nation."
When asked about the turning point for the Indian team at the Olympics during a virtual media conference, Marijne said, "After the Pool match against Great Britain, I was extremely angry with the team. I told the team that if you go down then show that you really tried and then go down. I told the team that they will have to do better and I think the team's mindset transformed after that match. I and Janneke had a lot of individual meetings with the girls and they found the key for the next matches themselves. I think that was an important part of the tournament for us."
The coach added that the Indian women's team players believing in themselves has made him proud, "We always had the belief that we can win a medal and we were really close. The girls believing in themselves makes me really proud. I think that was one of the biggest steps we made. Every girl in the team has her own story and every story is amazing. Let's hope that a lot of women in India have seen this Indian team's performance and are inspired by the team to start playing hockey or any other sport."
Marijne stressed the fact that staying in the moment was very important for the Indian team in the Olympics, "We finished among the top four in this competition and every team is now taking us seriously. I think that is a big step. We have always looked to stay in the moment and be busy with our task. We have tried to develop this mindset for a long time. We wanted to avoid thinking about winning or losing because that makes you nervous and we wanted to stay away from that."
During the media conference, the women's team's analytical coach Janneke Schopman said that she has been impressed with the team's desire to always get better.
"What I have seen in this Indian team is their desire to learn. They ask a lot of questions and are willing to try a lot of things, which is quite impressive. The girls want to learn and want to improve. As a Coach, you want your team to have success, but for me, it was great to see how the team fought and how they played as a team. It's been incredibly rewarding to be part of this team because of their mindset, wanting to learn, to get better, to fall, but to get back up. It's truly been amazing," said Schopman.