Commonwealth Games 2018: Women’s hockey team, shuttlers begin favourites in openers
The Indian women’s hockey team has reached Gold Coast with hopes of repeating their feat of Manchester Games 2002. Apart from Australia, India are the only country to win a gold medal in hockey – bagged by the women’s team in Manchester. Australia have dominated both the women’s and men’s sections by winning nine out of 10 gold medals.
Coach Harendra Singh’s band of sprightly girls will embark on Thursday on a tough journey which, they hope, will culminate atop the podium with gold medals around their necks. Their first test in pursuit of gold will be against Wales, who are likely to provide an easier examination of skills and nerves than England, South Africa and Malaysia. India are in a tough group and will have to get the better of both Malaysia and South Africa after defeating Wales in the opener. England are the top-ranked team in Commonwealth Games with New Zealand second. Defending champions Australia have slipped to fifth in the rankings but would be tough customers on home soil.
“We have prepared very well, worked hard and all the girls are confident. We had a good tour of South Korea where we won three of the five matches and that gives us a lot of confidence. Our aim is to recapture the gold we won in 2002,” said Harendra on the eve of the opening encounter at the Gold Coast Hockey Centre.
“Though Wales are ranked lower, there is no easy match at this level. So we will be very cautious. We want to get off to a good start,” said the coach, who led India to the Junior World Cup title in Lucknow in 2016.
India are the reigning Asian Champions and have a good mixture of experienced and young players under the leadership of striker Rani Rampal. In 2002 too, India and England were in the same pool and fought for the gold medal in which India prevailed 3-2 in extra time.
Will Harendra’s golden touch help India recapture glory in women’s hockey again?
While the women’s hockey team has a tough fight on hand, Indian shuttlers will step into the courts at the nearby Carrara Sports and Leisure Centre with confidence. They know they are the top dogs in both men’s and women’s singles.
Though they have never won the mixed team title, if they play to their potential and rankings, they should be able to set the record straight at Gold Coast. The biggest challenge in the tournament will come from Malaysia, England and Singapore. India have been grouped in Pool A with Scotland, Sri Lanka and Pakistan as 16 teams have been divided into four groups of four teams each. Topping this group should not be a difficult task as India boast of PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Srikanth Kidambi, HS Prannoy and Ashwini Ponappa.
India will open their campaign on Thursday against Sri Lanka in the morning and will take on Pakistan in the evening.
The paddlers too get into action with preliminary rounds of team competitions.