New Delhi: An "overjoyed" Indian women hockey team today vowed to make the most of the Olympic qualification as it will be one last opportunity for many players to compete in the showpiece event.
The women team will be featuring in the Olympics after a gap of 36 years. The last time they competed was in the Moscow 1980 Olympics, where they finished a respectable fourth.
"It's a dream come true. I am still in the process of realising that we have made it to Olympics. We were overjoyed when we came to know that we have qualified. This is a lifetime moment for each player and we will ensure that we make it more memorable by giving it a podium finish," India captain Ritu Rani said.
Star striker Rani Rampal, whose crucial goal against Japan in Antwerp kept the Indians in hunt, said, "This is just so unbelievable. While we were sure of a berth but now that this has happened it is still hard to believe. We had been playing and practicing for this moment for many years now.
Many in the team were aware that it would be the last opportunity to achieve our dream and play in the Olympics and this time we were adamant that we will make this happen."
Goalkeeper Savita also remembered the win against Japan.
"I still remember the game against Japan during the FINTRO FIH Hockey World League. We knew a win would keep us in contention and so in a way I had to ensure that Japan did not find the nets. While we had scored early, the job from there was to defend that one goal.
"Each one of us took it on oneself that we will defend it and not allow them to score. I think it was everyone?s effort that day which has allowed us to see this beautiful day today.
From here there is no looking back. We will make this qualification count and will make the country proud."
Vice Captain Deepika said,"This year we had took it on ourselves that we will not let this opportunity go. It was not an easy game as Japan was also playing with the same goal but it was possible because we stood up as a unit. Next year we will ensure that we add another feather by aiming for a podium finish."
Speaking on the qualification, Chief Coach Mathias Ahrens said, "During every game at Antwerp I reminded the players that this is their chance to RIO. They have to deliver to see their dreams come true. From here now my job will be to see that they make the country proud through their performance."