New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) Having led the Indian women’s hockey team to Olympic qualification after 36 years, skipper Ritu Rani is determined to leave a mark when the Rio de Janeiro games start in August.
India secured only their second appearance ever at the Games with a fifth-place finish at the Hockey World League semi-finals in July last year.
Their qualification was confirmed when a place opened up after the Netherlands and England, who had both qualifed earlier, reached the final of the EuroHockey Championships in London.
Ritu asserted that her players were determined to do well but warned that the overall performance at the Olympics would depend on how they play the first match.
“We have to do well in the first match. If we win it, then we will try to continue that momentum and do well in the other matches as well,” Ritu said here on Friday.
The only other appearence for the women’s team in the Olympics was the truncated Moscow Games in 1980 when they finished fourth.
Ritu, however, stated that the Indian eves were determined not to let the enormity of the occassion bog them down and were targetting a top six finish.
“We will take it match by match. We cannot afford to let the focus down by thinking too far ahead,” the 24-year-old said.
“Earlier our dream was to qualify for the Olympics. Now we are dreaming of doing well and want to finish in the top six,” she added.
At Rio, India will compete in Group B alongside Argentina, Australia, Britain, Japan and the US.
Currently ranked 13th by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), India are the minnows in the group, with all the other teams ranked above them.
Argentina (2nd) are the top-ranked team in Pool B folowed by Australia (3rd). The US and Japan are ranked seventh and 10th respectively.
But Ritu stated that the performances against top teams during India’s tour of Argentina in November has given the players a lot of confidence.
India had held Argentina 2-2 and beaten Australia in penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw.
“We are working hard in training. We are focussing more on fitness and strength. Our fitness has impressed a lot than before, all the other teams at the Olympics are ranked higher than us. So we have to be totally prepared,” Ritu said.
“We have done well against Argentina and Australia. So we can give them a tough fight,” she added.