The last time the Indian women's team won gold at the Asian Games was in 1982, and Savita believes the team will need to go all out this time.
According to goalkeeper Savita Punia, the Indian women’s hockey team will settle for nothing less than gold at next year’s Asian Games to secure a direct ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics. The Indian women’s team finished fourth in Tokyo after losing 3-4 to defending champions Great Britain, and Savita said the team is focused on doing well in the upcoming events, particularly the Asian Games, to get over the disappointment of missing out on an Olympic medal.
“The whole world has supported us after our fourth place finish at Olympics but when you get so close to a medal and come back empty-handed, it is a kind of pain which only athletes can understand. So we want to go tournament wise,” she said during a virtual press conference on Thursday. “Our main focus is on the Asia Cup, which is a World Cup qualifier, and then there will be World Cup, and then it will be the Asian Games,” Savita added.
The last time the Indian women’s team won gold at the Asian Games was in 1982, and Savita believes the team will need to go all out this time after settling for silver in 2018. “Of course coming fourth in the Olympics took a lot of effort but just like we missed the bronze at Olympics, we had missed the gold in last Asian Games, so we need to put extra effort,” said the senior India player, who won the best goalkeeper recognition in the women’s section in the FIH annual awards this year.
“We know how we struggled to qualify for the Olympics after missing the gold, so it will be the biggest tournament for us next year. We will need to produce a gold at the Asian Games, nothing else will do. Just talking about it won’t help, we will have to take responsibility individually to work on ourselves and start now,” Savita continued.
Following a 6-5 win on aggregate over the USA in the double-leg FIH Qualifiers in Bhubaneswar in 2019, the Indian team finally qualified for the Games after missing out on Olympic qualification due to a silver in Jakarta. “Sometimes some players might feel that since we reached fourth in Olympics, so we will do well in the Asian Games but we know we have always had close matches against Asian teams like China, Korea, Japan,” Savita said.
“So our mindset should be that Asian Games will have to be the best tournament for us so that preparation for the Olympics can be easier, so that the pressure of qualifying ends and we can qualify and focus on Olympics,” the Indian goalkeeper added.
Savita said the team needs to “continue working on fitness, penalty corner conversions and defence.”
“We learnt a lot during the Olympic preparation and we have become more responsible now, it will help us,” she said. “Now there is no one person in leadership position, it is about making everyone educate to be leaders. Fitness, mindset and self confidence, these are areas we have worked on in the last 3-4 years and it made a difference and it showed in Olympics, now we go with a different mindset in training,” she added.