Indian women's hockey player Sushila Chanu is of the belief that the Indian women's hockey team has made huge strides since the Rio Olympics and is ready to challenge for top honours. The world No.9 team is currently training hard ahead of their FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers against world No.13 USA.
When the team stepped onto the playing field in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, it was the first time in 36 years that an Indian women’s team had represented the country at the Olympic Games. Now, as they embark on the journey to book their berth in next year's Games in Tokyo, India will face off against the USA at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
"We know how it felt representing the country at the Olympics when we qualified for it after a 36-year gap last time in Rio. However, when we came back from that outing, there was a unanimous feeling around the group that we need to push ourselves and make sure that we are consistently putting in the performances which will help us in qualifying for the next edition. We are all very determined to secure our place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. We have made huge strides in our game from 2016, and now is the time to show it to the world that the Indian Women's Hockey team is here to challenge for the top honours, regardless of the opposition we face," Sushila told Hockey India.
"We have the best opportunity to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics as we are playing at home against the USA. We will have the support of the home crowd, and even though the USA are a strong unit, we have full belief in ourselves and in the way we play. We have 10 players in this current side who were there in Rio as well, and all of us collectively want to experience that feeling again, and not just that, we want to win a medal for the country this time in Tokyo," Sushila said.
Sushila herself has 179 international caps to her credit and has been a regular fixture in the team ever since making her debut in 2009. She’d led the team out at Rio but was forced out of action in two major tournaments last year due to a long-term injury.
"It was unfortunate that I suffered a long-term injury in 2018, and had to miss major tournaments like the FIH Women's Hockey World Cup London 2018, the Asian Games 2018 and the AHF Women's Champions Trophy. It was a very difficult period for me personally as I was low on confidence, and when you are injured, most of the time you are supposed to train alone with your trainer. There were times when I would doubt myself and think about the what-ifs, but the support I received from my family, support staff and my teammates was immense, it helped me in making a comeback," Sushila added.