Bengaluru, Sept. 10: The Indian mens and womens hockey teams are sweating it out here in preparation for the Olympic qualifiers scheduled for November.
The coaches and captains sounded upbeat about the prospects of the two teams in the qualifiers, scheduled to be held at Bhubaneswar on November 1 and 2, for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
While the women’s team faces a tricky opponent in USA, the men side will take on a lower-ranked Russia. Speaking about the preparations, now underway at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre here, the women’s team captain Rani Rampal said the players have prepared well.
“Our team is very well prepared for the match. We are focusing on how to perform well. Our focus is not on the US team but on us, how better you perform,” she told PTI on Tuesday.
Rampal said the fitness of the team members was beyond anyone’s imagination, which will help them face any rival side in the world. She said the team had been focusing on playing with a lot more coordination. “We have been playing together for quite a long time and now we have to implement the coordination in the match as well,” she added.
The men’s hockey team too is toiling hard for the tie against Russia. Skipper Manpreet Singh Pawar told PTI that as part of the preparation, the team would be heading to Belgium to play some matches against the world no 2.
“First we need to play with Belgium and there is a qualifying round later, because we should not underestimate Russia as well because they have a very good defence. They also want to qualify for the Olympics,” he said.
The coaches too are excited about the events lined up till November. The chief coach of the men’s and women’s teams respectively Graham Reid and Sjoerd Marijne are looking forward to the qualifiers. “We will prepare for these games like we prepare for the Olympic Games. So, we are looking forward to a good challenge for us,” Reid said.
He emphasised that playing World No. 2 Belgium will help them step-up their performance ahead of the FIH Olympic Qualifiers. “We have built some good momentum with this young squad and I am satisfied with how focused this unit has been. They are committed to achieving the Olympic Qualification and in that pursuit we continue to emphasis on improving our defence and working on creating quality opportunities in the circle during this on-going camp.
"I believe training and playing against some of the best competition (Belgium) in the world will give us a good platform for the qualifiers. Marijne expressed satisfaction over the fitness of the girls. The fitness of the girls has improved significantly. They are very fit. It has been a long process but now we are there where we want to be,” Marijne pointed out.