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Salima Tete says India women's team desperately wanted podium finish at CWG after WC debacle

New Delhi, August 19: Indian women's team midfielder Salima Tete has said the team desperately wanted to win a medal at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Birmingham after a disastrous World Cup campaign earlier this year.

The Indian women's hockey claimed a bronze medal in Birmingham Commonwealth Games after beating New Zealand 3-1 in the penalty shootout after the match ended 1-1 in regulation time.

However, at the World Cup held in Spain and the Netherlands earlier this year just a few weeks ahead of the CWG 2022, India finished a disappointing joint ninth with China.

Salima, who scored in the bronze medal match in Birmingham, revealed that a podium finish was the only target that the team had after a disastrous display at the World Cup.

"After we had a bad campaign at the World Cup, the team's aim and our focus was very clear. We wanted to do well at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, there was no other option," she said in 'Hockey Te Charcha' programme.

"We were sure we had to get a medal before returning back to India. Kuch na kuch karna hi hai (Needed to do something)," she added.

The 20-year-old Salima, who is one of the youngest members of the Indian women's hockey team, credits the sport for changing her life despite being relatively new in the set-up.

"Playing for India has really changed my life a lot, it has given me everything I could have asked for. I just want to keep performing for the country and win more matches," Salima noted.

Salima also revealed that interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi following the team's return from Birmingham motivates the team to work hard and achieve good results.

"Meeting the PM was a very big thing for someone like me. All of us meeting the PM, is a source of motivation. It is a motivation for us to keep working hard and achieve good results."

Having learnt to play the sport on grass grounds as young kid, one of the biggest moments in Salima's career so far has been the 2021 Tokyo Olympics campaign, where India finished fourth.

While that has done a lot for the athlete, Salima says it's ensured that her village has better training facilities, and that it is no more tucked away from the glare of the spotlight.

"Before the Tokyo Olympics, no one knew about our village and after I came back, the focus on our native place has increased a lot. We have people visiting us from different places, people recognising the village I come from.

"It is really heart-warming. Even for my family, they feel very good when people come to visit. The whole atmosphere has changed and it makes me very happy."

Rolling back the clock by a few years, Salima threw some light on her journey, speaking fondly about the likes of Asunta Lakra and Nikki Pradhan, both of whom have been influential mentors in her career.

"I came to hockey through the junior nationals and I had a role model in Asunta Lakra. I wanted to become like her, when I saw her playing. I felt that if she can do it, so can I.

"Nikki Pradhan is a very important figure in my development and has always had enough time for me. My family too is very supportive and they don't think of the difficulties, my family, my parents and siblings are very supportive," she said.

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Story first published: Friday, August 19, 2022, 15:30 [IST]
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