Thursday, October 28, 2021

Hockey Olympics: Our goal is to inspire women in India as nation rejoices

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Rod Gilmour
The Hockey Paper's Editor. First covered international hockey at the 2010 Commonwealth Games - no better than a full house watching India play England - and has reported for the Daily Telegraph and other major newspapers ever since. Co-founded THP in 2016.

Coach Sjoerd Marijne and captain Rani Rampal both spoke of the desire to inspire women in India after the Eves recorded a breakthrough win to reach the Tokyo Olympic semi-finals on Monday.

India beat favourites Australia for the first time in five years as the men’s and women’s national teams reached the last four for the first time together and some of the nation’s sporting icons, such as cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, heralded the historic moment.

Victory has bolstered India’s profile after finishing 12th in Rio, without a medal at the Commonwealth Games and eighth at the last women’s World Cup.

Now they stand within one match of the final when they face Argentina, who beat Germany 3-0, in the semi-finals, with Marijne revealling that motivational movie had inspired India deeper into the women’s hockey competition.

“We started this all and we were thinking what is the big goal for the women’s (team) and it’s not about winning medals, it’s about inspiring women in India, the position improving and inspiring young girls,” said Marijne, who was overcome with emotion at the final hooter.

“That’s what is the legacy that you want to create, that’s the legacy the girls want to create. This is our thing and I am there to help, and a medal helps in these things.

“The last four and a half years we have had so many disappointments about working hard but not getting to the next round or losing matches.

“And every time dealing with losing and it’s very tough for the girls, and they come from very difficult circumstances. And that they have now achieved this. Yeah, that (pride) is one of the emotions what goes through my body.”

India celebrate history after beating the Hockeyroos. PIC: REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Dutchman Marijne, who has been at the helm since 2017, said he had told his world No.9 side “to think big” ahead of the Hockeyroos clash, as they held on in a tight game where the green and gold failed to make inroads from their nine penalty corner chances.

He revealed that he had sat his side down to watch a self-belief movie after three Pool stage losses before the turnaround against Ireland. However, he stopped short of revealing the name of the film, instead saying that it was written in the book he wrote during lockdown on his experiences in India.

“I showed them a movie and that movie is about being in the moment and I think that was really helpful. The difference is believing in ourselves and believing in their dreams and then it’s about going back to reality focussing on your past. I think that is the main thing and that’s what we did,” Marijne told reporters.

“If you aim for the highest, for the clouds, you will fall on the highest mountain. If you aim for the mountain you will fall on the ground. We went for the clouds and I said whatever happens after it doesn’t matter, but that’s where we have to aim for.”

Rani, their inspirational captain, said that victory would be a “big, big thing” back in India, an expectant nation with a rich hockey heritage in the men’s game, but with a lower profile when it comes to the women.

“We have a team motto that means we want to inspire the young girls in India,” said Rani.

“And I’m really thankful to all people who supported us to be here, and I know people from India they are cheering in every game to us and they are praying a lot for us. So yeah, I am really thankful to all of them who supported us in this journey.”

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