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Focus has been on the match intensity: Sjoerd Marijne | Hockey News – Times of India

June 25, 2021

Women’s team aiming for quarterfinal slot in Tokyo
BENGALURU: Much like the rest of the world, the Indian women’s hockey team has endured a tough phase over the past 16 months, confined, for the most part, to the Sports Authority of India, South Centre, here. The tour of Argentina in January followed by the Germany tour in February-March were their only exposure opportunities amid the pandemic.
Add to it the six players, including skipper Rani Rampal, testing positive for Covid-19. The only thing that kept the 33 probables and the support staff going was Mission Tokyo. With the team narrowed down to 16 players and three reserves, their preparations for the quadrennial extravaganza has hit the home stretch.
Speaking to the media during a virtual interaction on Wednesday, chief coach Sjoerd Marijne dispelled concerns about the players’ form and fitness and said they were all in good shape and being monitored by strength and conditioning coach Wayne Lombard.
“We played four-five matches last week and the results were good. We wish for the players to feel light-footed so the intensity is very high. That said, we do not train for very long anymore because we are in the last phase (of preparation),” the Dutchman said.
India, who will make their third Olympic appearance, are in Group A with Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and South Africa. Marijne pointed out that the team, ranked 9th in the world, is ready for the grind.
“We are training and preparing to play eight matches and hope to do that. All our training sessions are above match intensity. So, matches will be easier for our players. Also, we are creating that heavy environment,” he said.
Marijne admitted that lack of match practice could hurt the team’s fortunes in Tokyo. “We learned, we studied, we have done everything we can, but with lack of practice matches, we don’t have a benchmark. Our only benchmark is from Argentina and Germany tours. After that we have worked hard, I have a lot of confidence in what we have done. Now we have to see if that was enough for the Olympics.”
Marijne also played down expectations from the team. “In India, the expectations are very high. Only two countries, Japan and South Africa, are ranked lower than us. So, I don’t know what these expectations are based on. I think probably because we did good in the past in the last four years. We are focusing on reaching the quarterfinals and that’s realistic and from there anything can happen.”
Rani, who is making her second Olympic appearance, said she has learnt to deal with the weight of expectations. “Before every tournament there is pressure on all athletes. Even if we had won an Olympic medal before, we still would be under pressure. It is like appearing for an examination. Irrespective of how well prepared you are, you are bound to be anxious and as athletes we feel the same way,” said the 26-year-old.

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