The Indian women’s hockey team has finished their final preparatory series for the 2016 Rio Olympics with an impressive tally of three wins and one defeat at Manheim in Pennsylvania. The tour of the USA, which was initially planned as a 5-match campaign, had to be cut short after heavy rain delayed and eventually washed out the last game against Canada on Monday.
Having played two games each against the hosts and their Olympic Group B rivals USA and visitors Canada, the Sushila Chanu-led Indian side were looking to end matters on a high against the latter by extending their praiseworthy three-match winning streak at the Lancaster venue. In the few minutes of gameplay, neither team had managed a goal and it stayed 0-0 till the downpour interrupted proceedings leading to the players being called off the turf.
Waiting patiently for the weather conditions to improve did not yield, mandating the game to be called off by the adjudicators.
With this, the Indian eves’ run-up to their second Olympic appearance after the 1980 Moscow Games reaches a conclusion. Next time they take the field will be against Japan in their Pool stage encounter on 7 August at the Olympic Hockey Center in Deodoro, Rio de Janeiro.
The team can take a lot of positives from their faring at the just concluded USA Tour. Debuting as captain of the senior team, halfback Sushila Chanu has done a commendable job filling in veteran Ritu Rani’s shoes at such short notice.
In their opening fixture, the Blueskirts went down 2-3 to the home team after a fighting display. Despite the loss, what was a welcome sight to see was the Indians’ attacking proficiency in the final third, a factor that is likely to pay rich dividends over time. Coming back strongly in the next game, they finally overpowered the FIH Champions Trophy bronze-winning US team 2-1, courtesy two late goals by Preeti Dubey and Lilima Minz.
Following the favourable result, there was an air of confidence among the Indian players which became all the more apparent from their showing against Canada in the 3rd and 4th fixtures. An emphatic 5-2 and another 3-1 triumph over Canada later, with forwards Vandana Katariya and Poonam Rani finding their scoring touch at the right moment, Neil Hawgood’s team finally looks ready to take on the Olympic challenge that’s headed their way in ten days’ time.
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