Rani Rampal INTERVIEW | Team India working on creating & converting chances ahead of Tokyo Olympics

In an interview with TNIE, the player from Kurukshetra, Haryana, opens up on the road to Tokyo, staying mentally fresh in the coming months and more. 
Indian women's hockey team skipper Rani Rampal (Photo | PTI)
Indian women's hockey team skipper Rani Rampal (Photo | PTI)

In less than four months, Rani Rampal will be leading the Indian women's hockey team for the first time in the Olympics — also just the third instance of the team competing in the Games after 1980 and 2016. An epitome of optimism, the 26-year-old knows a lot of work has to be done in the team's quest for a podium finish.

Not long ago, the team was handed a reality check in Germany — their second assignment since resumption. After a decent tour of Argentina, the No 9 side lost all of the four matches against Germany. The 0-5 scoreline was followed by 0-1, 0-2, 1-2. Though they couldn't post a single win, Rani says creating more scoring opportunities was a plus and that the team need to improve on converting
those chances. In an interview with TNIE, the player from Kurukshetra, Haryana, opens up on the road to Tokyo, staying mentally fresh in the coming months and more. Excerpts...

Would you say the team has got used to the new normal?
Travelling and playing games are not the same compared to how they used to be before. Before every training session or a game, we need to do the testing and it's not easy. All the time we just wear masks, but slowly we are getting used to it because we don't know when the world will be normal again and we can't wait for the normalcy to be restored to play games.

How important was it to play Argentina and Germany in the Olympic year?
It was really important that we played against the second and third-ranked team in the world before the Games and it happened almost after one year. We'd like to thank Hockey India and SAI for giving us that opportunity to play with top teams during this difficult time. Competing against the best, we learnt a lot from these games. We realised how much work we still need to do for the Olympics.

India scored just one goal and conceded 10 against Germany. What do you attribute this to?
Yes, if we see the results it's not nice but we always focus on progress. In the first game, we didn't play that good. They converted every opportunity that they got, but in the rest of the three games, we played much better. The good part was that we created opportunities, which is not easy. But now, we are working to finish those opportunities in the circle. 

Which are the areas the team need to work on?
We are working on creating more chances to score and how we can finish those chances and don't give another team soft penalty corner or soft goals.

Is there some kind of routine that the team follows to stay mentally fresh?
Yes, we do mindfulness and breathing exercises every week and our assistant (analytical) coach Janneke (Schopman) helps us in this — by telling us how to stay in the present moment. She is herself a Dutch Olympic gold medallist. She has so much experience on how to stay calm and focused, concentrating on the present moment.

Where do you think the team stand in terms of podium finish?
We have a really good team and a good support staff. Everyone is working hard to give their best in the Olympics. We are first focussing on pool games and we will take it match by match and after pool games, there will be a quarterfinal and then another tournament starts. We are just focussing on ourselves — we
need to perform to our potential.

Leading the team for the first time in the Olympics... what does it mean to you and your family?
It's an honour and privilege to be the captain of the country. I just want to lead by example. My family is always happy when I lead my country.

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