The Indian women's hockey team returned to Delhi on Monday night after winning the FIH Series Finals hockey tournament in Hiroshima. The Rani Rampal-led team beat Japan 3-1 in the final to earn the honours.
India netted a total of 27 goals in the tournament while conceding just 4 goals, which explains how stoically the team played in Hiroshima.
A big plus for the team was the aggressive hockey they played in the tournament. India beat most teams by big margins, in which the biggest victory in terms of goals came against Fiji, whom India beat 11-0. Of late, the team has registered many inspiring wins. They drew 1-1 with Spain earlier this year in the four-match series. Not to forget, in the third match of the same series, they handed the World No 5 Spain a 5-2 loss.
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Rampal said that playing aggressive hockey has been the key but it has come to fore only because of the higher fitness levels of the players, something on which the support staff and team has worked very hard over the last two years and the results are now showing up.
She credited coach Sjoerd Marijne for employing the aggressive approach but had a word of thanks for the Scientific Advisor of the team, Wayne Lombard, who has helped improve the fitness levels.
She said, "Hockey has definitely changed and we have changed accordingly. The present day's hockey has a lot to do with your fitness levels. The teams which are giving due importance to fitness are doing better. In the last two years, India women's hockey team has worked very hard on fitness. The credit for the same goes to our scientific trainer Wayne Lombard."
Lombard has been with the team for past two years now and has advised the team on diet, recovery methods and has brought about a systematic approach in training.
Rampal said, "He has been with us for two years and has worked on our strength and conditioning. He has advised us on diet, what diet one should take for recovery. He organised a systematic way of training. That for how many days should we train in a week, when to train. These things has helped the team a lot in the long run. Coach has always emphasised on playing aggressive hockey and fitness has helped us achieve that."
India was guaranteed its place in the final round of the Olympic qualifiers after defeating Chile 4-2 in the semi-finals. Rampal is hoping that they get to play the final round in India. She said, "We hope the venue is India and we can play in front of our people. But first, we will get back to the camp and will be improving on the remaining short comings. We need to put more hard yards to do that."
Reliving the moments after winning the FIH Series Final, Rampal said, "It was a lovely moment. The win is special because we beat Japan in the finals against whom we had lost in the Asian Games. As a team, we played brilliantly."
The star for India, apart from player of the tournament Rampal, was Gurjit Kaur, who struck 11 times in the competition. Rampal said that she has shaped up well as a drag-flicker and will be beneficial for India in the future. She said, "We knew Gurjit will come good for us as she has really improved upon the drag-flicking. She is shaping up well and we will be benfitted by her game in future."
Proud of >Lalremsiami
The Indian captain also had a word of praise for the 19-year-old Lalremsiami who stayed back with the team and played in the semi-finals clash against Chile despite losing her father a day before. She had the option to go back but she decided to stay till the end of the tournament to eventually return victorious.
Rampal said that to see such a young girl do such things for the team and country makes her proud. "She is a strong girl and we all are very proud of her. To choose team and country first after such a tragic loss is a big thing and as a team, we are very proud of her," said Rampal.
"We knew we had to support her a lot and we wanted to win the tournament for her and her late father," she concluded.