For the last four years, the India women’s national field hockey team has dreamt and worked towards a single goal—to bring home an Olympic medal and make India proud. They had a lot to prove to override their performance at the Rio De Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games (they were eliminated in the group stage after qualifying for the same, for the first time since 1980). It was a huge blow for the team, but they were ready for a comeback under the steely guidance of Dutch coach Sjoerd Marijne. Then, when the players were at their peak and raring to go, the nationwide lockdown in India was announced, and soon after, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were postponed to 2021. Given the hardships that these young women had to overcome to get to this point— not just dealing with the disappointment of their last Olympic outing and the tedious training that followed, but ever since each of them chose hockey as a career—you will understand the gut-wrenching disappointment that engulfed the Sports Authority of India (SAI) camp in Bengaluru when news of the delay in games and a halt in training was declared. “We broke down, the team was not in the right mental space for a few days,” confesses vice-captain and goalkeeper Savita Punia, during a telephone interview. (The team is now back in training at SAI after the forced four-month break).
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