Bhubaneswar: The Indian women’s hockey team has scripted history as it was their maiden entry into the quarterfinals and subsequently the semifinals of the Olympics since their debut in 1980, the same year the Indian men’s hockey team had won their last Olympics gold in Moscow.
India was one of the six teams invited to participate when women’s hockey made its Olympics debut in 1980 at Moscow. India finished fourth behind Zimbabwe, Czechoslovakia and Soviet Union.
They returned to the Olympics 36 years later when Rani Rampal’s team qualified for the Rio Olympics in 2016. They, however, had a dismal tournament and finished 12th and last.
Following the disappointing performance in Rio, the Indian team has grown from strength to strength, winning the 2016 Asian Champions Trophy, 2017 Asia Cup, silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games and reaching the quarterfinals of the 2018 Women’s World Cup for the first time in history.
The team also gave commanding performances at the FIH Women’s Series Finals Hiroshima 2019, where they defeated Japan 3-1 to win gold, and the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers 2019 where they defeated the US to book a place in the Tokyo Olympics.
It was the third appearance of the women’s hockey team in the Olympics after 1980 and 2016.
The 16-member Olympic squad included eight stalwarts, Rani Rampal, Savita, Deep Grace Ekka, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Monika, Nikki Pradhan, Navjot Kaur and Vandana Katariya, who had represented India at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The rest eight, Gurjit Kaur, Udita, Nisha, Neha, Navneet Kaur, Sharmila Devi, Lalremsiami, the first player hailing from Mizoram in the team, and Salima Tete, were Olympic debutants.
The Indian women’s hockey team made a historic entry into the quarterfinals, finishing fourth in Pool A after Ireland was beaten 2-0 by Great Britain in the final league match on July 31.
India had defeated South Africa 4-3 in their last league match but their passage to the knockout stage depended on the result of the match between defending champions Great Britain and Ireland as the latter was placed fifth in the group and could finish fourth ahead of India.
For India to qualify, Great Britain had to beat Ireland and that’s what happened.
Indian women scripted another historic moment of their own by making a maiden entry into the semifinals of the Olympics hockey tournament on August 2 by defeating world No. 2 Australia 1-0 in the quarterfinals.
However, there was no fairy-tale ending for the Indian women’s hockey team as its dream of winning bronze in their maiden entry into the medal round came crashing down in a 4-3 defeat to Great Britain on Friday.