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Indian Women Hockey OQ: Light at the end of tunnel (8/29/2015)
--K. Arumugam
Indian Women Hockey OQ: Light at the end of tunnel

It’s a moment waiting to happen and it did: Indian women hockey team will be in the Olympics. Nothing can be sweeter info than the FIH’ flash news that came yesterday during crucial stage Euro Championship for the followers of much struggling women hockey.

Its befitting the news came on India's Sports Day, which is birth anniversary of legend Dhyan Chand.

Indian women hockey, whose history and heritage is as good as their men’s sans Olympic participation, can count among those who count only with Olympic label.

In the past, our women – who are among the first six teams to play the first Olympics --came close to getting qualified for subsequent editions many times, but all turned out to be slip between lip and cup cases.

undefined Only 8 teams allowed in 1984 and 1988, India had no chance to be at top

Indian government refused to send women team to 1991 Olympic Qualifier and the 1992 edition was thus missed out without even trying.

1996 was also similar case.

Asia Cup winning would have given the girls direct entry for the 2000 number but the girls lost the final to Korea in the golden goal.

India did not qualify even for the Olympic Qualifier for the Athens edition due to faulty calendar and wrong choice of tournaments; though the field has since been enlarged to 12.

In 2008 when a new qualification format was introduced, India could only finish third at Kazan OQ when the outright winning was the requirement.

India just needed to push South Africa in the Delhi Qualifier three years ago, but could not keep the pace of scoring high, and lost out, not even in the final.

All these past were now only for academics as the team led by Shahbad’s Ritu Rani did what three generation of women hockey players could not.

They will soon be Olympians.

Now, another new format came into being with the introduction of Hockey World League; and India which won Round 2 at Delhi qualified for the HWL Semifinals held at Antwerp and finished fifth, beating Japan in the crucial tie.

It’s a rare occasion now for both and men and women Indian hockey, which did not figure in any category in the 2008 Olympics, to be in the Rio.

Sports Authority of India, which spends a fortune on them, Indian Railways which keeps the wheels of women hockey move on and the Hockey India, which among other things, held R2 in Delhi which enabled India to move R3 at Antwerp owe every bit of appreciation for the feat.

undefined Indian women will now get formidable rivals to practice, play and improve. Need not travel to New Zealand to get exposure.

Hope SAI and HI go all out to prepare the team for the Rio. Only a good performance there can give respectability to Indian girls; mere participation, however historic it is, won’t cut much ice with the new generation.

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