Skipper Rani reveals how the team motivated itself for the quarterfinal clash against Australia
The heavens wept and so did the Indians.
When the hooter went off some sank to their knees, others looked to the heavens in disbelief and the bench ran onto the pitch. It was perhaps the fastest 50m dash of their lives.
The women’s hockey team had done the unthinkable, beating three-time Olympic champion Australia for a place in the semifinals.
“I seriously don’t know what to say. I am super proud of the team. Before the game we told each other ‘just give everything you have on the pitch today. Don’t look ahead, it’s the next 60 minutes that count. Put every drop of energy into the next 60 minutes and stick to your roles’,” skipper Rani Rampal said. The women executed the plan with surgical precision. They split open the Australian backline at will, scored the all-important goal and stitched it up with a leakproof defence.
The match-winning goal came from Gurjit Kaur, one of the seniors in this young squad. Gurjit had been under pressure throughout this campaign — the defence had shipped in 14 goals ahead of the quarterfinals and she had not converted any of her penalty corners. But on Monday, she struck gold.
“We had only one penalty corner and it was important to convert that. It was great that my team created the chance for me and each of us gets credit for it,” she said, humble in victory.
Another heroine, goalkeeper Savita said the team had been primed to play Australia.
“We wanted to face Australia in the quarterfinal because we have played them earlier and know that we can play our natural game against them. They give us space and we took advantage of that today,” she said.
Coach Sjoerd Marijne said he had never lost faith in the squad despite the three successive losses at first.
“We believed in ourselves and the dream that these women have chased. We don’t concern ourselves with the ‘what ifs’. We focus on our job as a team and as individuals, and that’s why we have made it so far,” he said.
This bunch of 16 women have dared to dream. And we’re living the dream with them.
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