The Indian women’s hockey team missed might have out on a medal at the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics but they definitely won millions of hearts and made the nation – long-starved of Olympic glory in hockey — dream again.

After losing its first three pool games, the Rani Rampal-led team bounced back to win the next three matches — including the quarterfinal against the world number two Australia — to reach the semifinals.

The team then pushed hard against Argentina in the semis but missed out on a spot in the final after narrowly losing 1-2. The similar gritty performance was also seen in the bronze medal match and after two quarters they were leading 3-2 but then Great Britain scored twice to clinch the medal.

In an EXCLUSIVE interview with Editor-in-chief of Zee News, Sudhir Chaudhary, the players of the Indian women’s hockey team opened up on their thrilling journey in Tokyo Olympics and also revealed their tales of sweat, tears, and humble beginnings.

Question: Rani, what made you guys cry so much after losing the bronze medal match? 

Answer: It was an emotional moment for us, we were very close to the medal. It hurts a lot to return without a medal despite being so close. The life of an athlete is not that easy. We have made a lot of sacrifices in the time of COVID. I was away from family for a long period of time. I felt very happy for all the love I got from the nation. Women’s hockey team never received so much love before.

Question: What was your thought process and how you were feeling ahead of the bronze medal match? 

Answer: We were full of confidence before the match. We played well in the semi-final with Argentina. We had decided not to let go the medal. Our team gave it all on the field and fought till the very end, but unfortunately, it wasn’t our day.

Question: Savita, how did you stop so many goals in the Tokyo Olympics?

Answer: It has been a long journey. We were not satisfied with our performance in the last Olympics. Our strategy was to go match by match. We decided, we have to finish well. Initially, we lost a couple of games but later we made a comeback and that was the turning point.

Question: Salima, how did it feel when you came to know that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi was asking about you?

Answer: I was happy from the inside because I worked very hard. We improved with each passing game. I am the youngest so I didn’t have much experience.

Question: How does the team treat 19-year-old Salima? 

Answer: Senior players always advise me to play my natural game and play freely.

Question: Lalremsiami, how was your experience?

Answer: Very nice sir. I come from a small state – Mizoram, where people don’t know much about hockey. I enjoyed playing in the Tokyo Olympics.

Question: Navjot, what change did you witness when you returned to India?

Answer: Too many people came to the airport to welcome us. It is great that the country is supporting us so much. Respecting us from the heart. Our journey have just started, so we will do well in the future also.

Question: Rani, how much have you struggles to reach the hockey field?

Answer: I have seen a lot of struggle since childhood. I started playing hockey at the age of seven at Shahbad Hockey Nursery in Kurukshetra, Haryana. It was difficult for girls to move out of Haryana 20 years back. Parents were not very educated and they did not know about sports. They used to worry about society and what people will say if they’ll send their daughter out for practice. I come from a very poor family. But difficulties give you the courage to do something big.

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