New Delhi : Having all but booked a berth in next year's Rio Olympics, Indian women's hockey team today arrived here early morning to a grand welcome amidst beating of drums and loud cheers.
A large contingent of officials and media gathering was present at the airport to receive the team, which finished fifth at the just-concluded Hockey World League Semifinals in Antwerp, Belgium.
The result has enhanced Indian eves chances of qualifying for the 2016 Games.
"We knew we had to be in the top five to stay in contention for the Rio Olympics. The last two games were very crucial for us and the girls kept their cool despite huge expectations and pressure. The young players specially played really well and I can confidently say that the future for women hockey in India is very bright," said India's coach C R Kumar.
Indian eves lone Olympic appearance was at Moscow in 1980. Effectively, India's fifth spot here should secure them an Olympic Games ticket when the countdown to allocate spots takes place.
Three spots each are on offer at both the World League Semifinal competitions, here at Antwerp and in the just-concluded event at Valencia.
With five continental event champions being allowed another route, there are likely to be several dual qualifications. In turn, that can open up Olympic spots for nations which do not make the top four of the two World League Semifinals.
Germany, Great Britain and China have secured the three Olympic berths from the World League Semifinals in Valencia.
Three teams -- The Netherlands, South Korea and Australia -- here at Antwerp have secure their Rio de Janeiro tickets, but South Korea have already earned an Olympic slot by winning the Asian Games gold medal.
An African champion could be the only one not to have featured among the top four teams at these two World League Semifinals, opening up more places, even if Olympic hosts Brazil are given a leeway to make the grade.