After beating China 2-0, the Indian Women’s Hockey team, coached by Janneke Schopman, earned bronze. The squad would have come looking for gold, but World Cup qualifying and a podium place at the Asia Cup is a good start following a Covid-related disruption. Savita Punia, Gurjit Kaur, and Vandana Katariya dominated the ranks, allowing the squad to achieve this achievement.
Sarita Punia, called “the Great Wall of India,” is the goalkeeper and current leader of the Indian Women Hockey team. Sarita was motivated to play hockey as a kid by her grandpa Mahinder Singh, and she subsequently attended the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Hisar, Haryana.
Punia’s first international tour, a four-nation event in the Netherlands and Germany, took place in 2008. In 2011, she made her senior international debut. At the international level, she has appeared in over 100 games.
She was a member of the team that competed in the Junior Asia Cup in 2009. She competed at the Eighth Women’s Asia Cup in Malaysia in 2013, when she stopped two important potential goals in the penalty shoot-out, allowing India to capture a bronze medal. She was a member of the bronze-winning squad at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
She was not interested in hockey at first, but after her father invested roughly Rs. 20,000 on her hockey equipment, she saw the game in a new light. At the age of 17, Sarita was selected for her first national camp in Lucknow in 2007, where she trained with the best goalie.
Savita has played over 100 international games and was praised for her outstanding performance against Japan in the last minute when she survived a torrent of penalty corners to help India maintain its 1–0 advantage.
Gurjit, the team’s guardian and drag-flicker, has played in over 53 international games and was named the women’s “Player of the Year” at the FIH Player of the Year Awards for 2020-21.
Gurjit’s game spark was first shown on an international level in 2017, when she competed in the Test series in Canada in March 2017, the Hockey World League Round 2 in April 2017, and the Hockey World League semifinals in July 2017. Gurjit’s goal against Australia in the 2020 Summer Olympics helped India Women Hockey enter the semi-finals for the first time.
When Gurjit Kaur was called for the Senior National Camp in 2014, she had her first taste of playing for the country. She was, however, unable to gain a spot on the team. She only became a permanent part of the Indian women’s hockey team in 2017. Gurjit Kaur then appeared in the March 2017 Test series in Canada, the April 2017 Hockey World League Round 2 and the July 2017 Hockey World League semifinals.
Vandana is the team’s top forward and the offensive Indian Women’s Hockey team’s flag-bearer. Vandana gained fame in 2013 when she was India’s leading goal scorer (five goals) at the 2013 Women’s Hockey Junior World Cup when India took bronze.
Vandana has competed in over 200 international matches and was a member of the Indian squad that won bronze at the Asian Games in 2014. She was the competition’s top scorer in Round 2 of the 2014–15 FIH Hockey World League, scoring 11 goals in the tournament that India subsequently won.
Vandana becomes the first Indian woman to achieve an Olympic hat-trick in hockey at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. After India’s quarterfinal loss to Argentina, her family was exposed to casteist remarks. Certain upper-caste folks abused Katariya’s family, claiming that the squad lost the Olympic semifinal because there were too many Dalit players on the team.
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