Indian women hockey book a berth in Olympics
Indian women's hockey team qualified for the upcoming 2016 Rio Olympics. Indian women's team last featured in Olympics 36 years before, in the 1980 Moscow Games. India now joins nine other teams, who have already qualified for 2016 Rio Games: Korea (Asian champions), USA (Pan Am champions) and Great Britain, China, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Argentina and the New Zealand. (through Hockey World League Semi-Finals).
Indian women's national field hockey team, nicknamed the 'Golden girls of hockey' is coached by Canada's Mathias Ahrens. The team is captained by the halfback, Ritu Rani from Hayana. As per the International Hockey Federation (FIH) rankings, Indian women's team is ranked No.13. Hockey India (HI) is the apex body to govern and conduct all activities related to Women's hockey.
The major tournaments in the world of women's hockey include the Olympics, World Cup, FIH Hockey World League, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Hockey Asia Cup, Hockey Champions Challenge, Asian Hockey Champions Trophy, etc.
The team's achievements include finishing 4th in the 1974 World Cup and finishing 4th in the 1980 Moscow Olympics when the women's event was held for the first time in Olympics. The team's first big victory came when it won the Gold medal in the 1982 Asian Games beating Korea in the finals. They also won Gold in the 2002 Commonwealth Games defeating England.
The 2002 Commonwealth success, touted as a comeback for the team's coach- Mir Ranjan Negi inspired the Bollywood movie on women's hockey - 'Chak De India' starring Shahrukh Khan.
The women's team in 2013 won the bronze in Asia Cup defeating Japan in a shootout. They finished 5th in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and secured bronze in the 2014 Asian Games by defeating Japan. In the 2014-15 Hockey World League Semifinals, India finished 5th beating the higher ranked Japan in classification match. This put India a step closer towards the 2016 Rio Olympics.
12 teams will contest in the tournament at the 2016 Summer Olympics. The continental champions from five confederations (Asia, Africa, Europe, America, Oceania) receive an automatic berth. The six highest placed teams in the Hockey World League Semifinals (HWL SF) 2014/2015 not qualified under Continental Qualifications also earn a place. The host country, Brazil was not allotted a place for not satisfying FIH criteria.
Since the host nation Brazil did not fulfill the criteria of finishing either within the top 7 of Pan Am Games or a world ranking equal or better than 40, they were denied a place. New Zealand the next best team in HWL SF took its place.
If a team that qualified for the Olympics through HWL SF wins the respective continental championship, then the next best team from the Semifinals will qualify in their place. For eg, Korea finished among the top 6 in World League Semifinals and was also the continental champion from Asia. Hence, Argentina the next best team in HWL SF was alloted a place.
England's semifinal victory over Spain in the European Championships meant the finals would happen between England and Netherland who have already qualified to Rio through HWL SF. This gave way to next best team in SF- India to qualify.