Olympic qualification dream come true: Women’s hockey captain Ritu

New Delhi, Aug 30 (IANS) With the Indian women’s hockey team earning the Olympic qualification after 36 long years, skipper Ritu Rani said on Sunday that representing the country at the quadrennial extravaganza is a dream come true for the team.

The Indian Women’s Hockey team last time featured in the Moscow 1980 Olympics, where they finished at a respectable fourth position.

The team posted a fifth place finish in the Hockey World League (HWL) semi-final earlier this year in Antwerp, Belgium to ensure that they remained in contention for the Olympics.

The berth was confirmed when Spain lost the semi-final clash to England during the women’s EuroHockey Championships on Friday.

“It’s a dream come true. I am still in the process of realizing that we have made it to Olympics. We were aware that the outcome of the match between England and Spain will confirm our position for the games next year and we had been waiting for the results,” an ecstatic Rani was quoted as saying in a Hockey India release.

“We were overjoyed when we came to know that we have qualified. This is a lifetime moment for each player and we will ensure that we make it more memorable by giving it a podium finish,” she added.

Experienced striker Rani Rampal meanwhile, is still finding it hard to believe that she will grace the hockey fields in Rio in Indian colours.

“This is just so unbelievable. While we were sure of a berth but now that this has happened it is still hard to believe. We had been playing and practicing for this moment for many years now,” the Haryana girl said.

“Many in the team were aware that it would be the last opportunity to achieve our dream and play in the Olympics and this time we were adamant that we will make this happen.”

Goalkeeper Savita Punia looked back to their game against Japan in the HWL which she believes was the game-changer.

“I still remember the game against Japan during the Hockey World League at Antwerp. We knew a win would keep us in contention and so in a way I had to ensure that Japan did not find the nets. While we had scored early, the job from there was to defend that one goal. Each one of us took it on oneself that we will defend it and not allow them to score,” Savita said.

Speaking on the qualification, chief coach Mathias Ahrens said,”When I came on board my immediate focus was to see that the team qualifies for the games next year. During every game at Antwerp I reminded the players that this is their chance to Rio.”

“They have to deliver to see their dreams come true. I am happy that I was able to motivate and guide them, which has ensured us this spot in the Rio Olympics. From here now my job will be to see that they make the country proud through their performance”.