It was a historic day for Indian hockey on Saturday night as both the women's & men's hockey teams qualified for the Olympics on the same day for the first time ever and within an interval of two hours. Now having achieved what was seemingly do-able after India got an extremely favourable draw as Olympic qualifiers with lowly-ranked USA & Russia as opponents, the performance of the teams have been an eye-opener of where both the teams are currently placed vis a vis top-ranking teams in the world.
"The target was to qualify and we have qualified. But we did not play well tonight. We were just lucky to qualify for Olympics. Its time for a reality check," admitted Sjoerd Marijne, Coach, India women's hockey team at the post-match press conference.
Captain Rani Rampal, who played the most crucial role in both the qualifying legs and single-handedly scripted India's qualification to Tokyo Olympics, said: "It was very scary at half time (trailing 0-4). I had to do something and time was running out. I am extremely lucky to have scored the goal that made all the difference. But we did not play well at all. Probably we were complacent and did not expect the USA to play like that."
The men's team shrug-off their inconsistency and complacency to pump in seven goals against Russia after facing criticism for their lacklustre performance on Friday night.
Captain Mandeep said that the team finally played to their potential but the real challenge begins now. "We have to play much better than we have so far. We need to perform consistently and against the top teams as well."
Ramandeep Singh endorsed the view saying its time to rejoice but let's not celebrate too much as bigger and sterner tests awaited team India at the Olympics next year. "Teams will be far superior and tough compared to the qualifiers. We have to improve and play much better."