On Saturday, July 31, the focus was mainly on the match between Great Britain and Ireland. It was a nail-biting affair for Rani Rampal’s India Women’s hockey team. Having slumped to hefty defeats at the hands of Netherlands, Germany, and Great Britain, India’s fate wasn’t completely on their hands anymore.
However, the wins against Ireland and South Africa kept them hanging by a thread. Though India won their last two group games, they were up against Australia, who decimated every other opponent in Group B, in the quarterfinal.
Being the World No.2, the Women in Yellow looked firm favourites and their win looked inevitable. But after four quarters of jaw-dropping action at the Oi National Stadium, the sporting world was a witness to one of the biggest upsets in hockey.
Gurjit Kaur’s scorer in the 22nd minute secured India the lead after which they didn’t look back. Rampal’s troops created history as they made it to an Olympics semi-final for the first time. After the first three games when their confidence would have hit rock-bottom, India have risen like a phoenix from the ashes.
Their triumph came after the men’s team qualified for an Olympics semis after 49 years. Though the men’s team’s road was smoother, their wins can’t be undermined by any means.
From doom and gloom to joy and jubilation – Indian hockey
Meanwhile, to reach where they are currently, the Indian teams had to work tirelessly. 1980 was special not only because the men’s team won gold, but also for the fact that it marked the women’s team’s maiden appearance in Olympics. From there, things turned to doom and gloom for both teams.
In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Indian hockey capsized to the extent that the men’s team failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 1928. They lost to Great Britain 0-2 in the final of the World Hockey qualifying tournament in Santiago and bowed out.
In 2012, the women’s team failed to make it to the London Olympics while the men’s team lost five out of five. Reports of ‘National game now a national shame’ came to the fore. Indian hockey was gasping for breath and needed a guiding light from somewhere.
In Rio, the men’s team missed out on a medal after losing to Belgium in the quarter-final. The women’s team couldn’t get a medal either, finishing fifth. Back then, Australia thrashed them 6-1, and five years down the line, the situation isn’t quite the same.
The coaches of both teams also deserve a mention. Back in April 2019, Graham Reid was appointed as the men’s coach after Harendra Singh was sacked following India’s disastrous show in the Hockey World Cup. Under Reid’s tutelage, Manpreet Singh and Co. have grown leaps and bounds.
Janeke Schopman was roped in as the women’s coach back in January 2020 and he has managed to instill self-belief in the Women in Blue. His contract comes to an end after the ongoing Olympics and it won’t be a surprise if his contract is renewed.
As of now, India stands on the verge of two medals in hockey in what has already been their greatest Olympics edition in the sport.