Fitness-wise we are no less than any European team: Rani
(Sourced from PTI)
Olympic champions are not created overnight and the Indian women's hockey team has taken long strides in that direction by following a well-defined process, skipper Rani Rampal assured on Thursday. She assured that her balanced side is good enough to challenge the best during the Tokyo Games. The Indian women's team had competed at the 2016 Olympics after a gap of 36 years.
Rani said, "No team becomes Olympic champions overnight. They definitely started from somewhere. We, also, are part of the process. Coaching and the staff are working well for this mission." "Earlier people felt that we were no match to European teams. If you see our team over the period of last four-five years, fitness-wise we are no less than any other team," she added.
Placed in a tough Pool A, the Indian team will begin its Olympic campaign against the world's top side the Netherlands on July 24 before taking on Germany (ranked 3rd), Great Britain (5th) and Ireland (9th), who are all ranked higher than the 10th placed India. South Africa, at number 16, is the only lower-ranked side than India.
Rani said, "We have worked toward this for years. We have a nice blend of youth and experience and every player has some quality. Our coaches have kept some good choices in the team. We have got a balanced side in all three departments."
This year, Rani had contracted the infection along with her six teammates and two support staff members. Rani said that it was not easy to prepare the team physically and mentally when the Games were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. "It was a big mental challenge in COVID-19 times. The coach helped us a lot in dealing with any problem 24x7," she added.
Rani will lead a 16-member side that has eight members from the Rio squad. India's vice-captain Savita Punia said that their last Olympic experience would come in handy. "We are aware of our strengths, we will go match by match and give our best every time. We don't want to give any excuses for the Olympics. We are ready for everything," Savita added.
The Indian eves had two much-needed exposure trips to Argentina and Germany earlier this year. While they remained winless in Argentina with three draws and four losses, they lost all their matches in Germany.