Ranchi: After failing to grab the Olympic qualification spot in the Asian Games in Hangzhou, the Indian women’s hockey team will now have to go through a qualifying tournament.
The team will take its first step towards preparations for the Olympics qualifiers in the Jharkhand Women’s Asian Champions Trophy Ranchi 2023, which is set to take place from October 27 to November 5.
The Indian women’s hockey team goalkeeper Bichu Devi Kharibam emphasised the importance of the Asian Champions Trophy in preparing for the 2024 Paris Olympics Qualifiers.
“The tournament will serve as a crucial stepping stone for us as we prepare for the 2024 Paris Olympics Qualifiers, scheduled for January next year,” she said.
“It goes without saying that we’ll have to work really hard for the next three months to qualify for the Paris Olympics, hence, the upcoming tournament in Ranchi is essential for assessing our progress and testing our mettle against formidable opponents,” she added.
Bichu Devi, who is gearing up for her maiden appearance in the Asian Champions Trophy, has expressed her excitement for playing in the prestigious tournament and that too on home soil.
“I am thrilled about being selected for the Asian Champions Trophy in Ranchi. It’s a joyous moment for me, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. Apart from seeking help from my seniors in the upcoming tournament, I am looking forward to utilising the experience which I gained during the recently concluded Asian Games in Hangzhou,” said Bichu Devi, who made her Indian team debut in 2022.
The seventh edition of the Women’s Asian Champions Trophy is being hosted in Ranchi, a city renowned for its ardent hockey fan base. Bichu Devi is enthusiastic about the local support as she said, “Ranchi is full of passionate hockey fans and we are expecting them to turn out in large numbers to cheer for us in the stadium. We will draw inspiration from fans and aim to give our all on the field. Though the heightened expectations bring pressure, we’ll rally as a team to motivate one another.”
It is worth noting that the Indian women’s team won the Asian Champions Trophy title in 2016 and in the following edition in 2018, it finished runners-up. Hence, the team will aim to continue the good show and finish on the podium.
However, the Jharkhand Women’s Asian Champions Trophy Ranchi 2023 is set to be intense, featuring a strong lineup of teams including the host nation India, along with Asian Games gold medallists China, Japan, Malaysia, Korea, and Thailand.
Regarding the preparations and India’s prospects, the 22-year-old Bichu Devi expressed her confidence, saying, “We have the capability to go all the way and secure that elusive trophy. Our approach will be to take it one match at a time and learn from our past experiences, such as our semifinal loss to China in the recently concluded Asian Games. However, despite that setback, we demonstrated our team’s quality by making a triumphant comeback in the bronze medal match against Japan and that’s the kind of motivation we’ll carry with us in the Women’s Asian Champions Trophy.”
“Also, in the upcoming tournament, my focus will be on keeping things simple and mastering the fundamentals like short passing, negating the opponents’ counterattacks, and all the essential aspects instilled in us by our Coach,” she concluded.