Hockey

How India braved the death of Lalremsiami’s father to enter Olympic qualifiers

India, led by Rani Rampal, won the FIH Series Finals beating Japan 3-1

For the Indian team, Sunday’s bus ride back to the hotel room from the Hiroshima Hockey Stadium, was an occasion to frolic. There was laughter, singing, hooting and dancing as ‘Suno Gaur Se Duniya Walo’ played in the background. The women in blue, led by the resilient Rani Rampal had won the FIH Series Finals, beating Asian Games champions Japan 3-1 in the final, and entered the Olympic qualifiers.

Before the festivity, however, was a lot of hard work and heartbreak. Granted, India had to play lower-ranked teams. But they had an Olympic spot on the line. Despite the pressure, India comfortably won all their games (with margins of 4-1, 5-0, 11-0, 4-2 and 3-1). And, before the semi-final, the team received the news of 19-year-old Lalremsiami’s father’s death.

“The mood in the team changed from being excited about the semis to being grim. It was important we lifted ourselves from this tragedy and gave emotional support to Lalremsiami,” says skipper Rani.

“We spoke as a team about it and how to deal with it,” says coach Sjoerd Marijne. “In these situations, it’s not easy for the other players what to say to Siami [Lalremsiami] but I advised them just to talk to her and ask the questions they wanted to ask. People many times don’t know what to do in such a situation and speaking openly about it makes it easier to open to conversation.”

The coach adds that the semi-final against Chile was the most crucial match of the tournament, for India needed a victory to seal their spot in the Olympic qualifiers. Lalremsiami, aware of this, chose to skip her father’s funeral. “I want to make my father proud. I want to stay, play and make sure India qualifies,” she told the coach.

“We are now one step away from making this dream come true and we will remain focused on this goal,” adds Rani.

Due to the team’s victory in the final, the Olympic qualifiers are likely to be held in India. Familiar conditions might help but the coach says the matches can be tense.

“It’s about two matches and the pressure is high,” he says. “Dealing with this pressure is the highest challenge. We have been working already on it and in this tournament we did pretty well but there is room for improvement in this area.”

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 12:46:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/hockey/how-india-braved-the-death-of-lalremsiamis-father-to-enter-olympic-qualifiers/article28143735.ece

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