Indian women's hockey team player Savita, who stood rock-solid guarding the goal during the Tokyo Olympic Games, said on Wednesday that with the current Olympic cycle spanning just three years, the team's priority will be to regroup, analyse the Tokyo performance and "hit the ground running" immediately.
With the 2024 Olympics three years away Savita said, "I actually can't wait to return to the camp in SAI (Sports Authority of India), Bengaluru. It has become a place of comfort for us. There has been lot of celebrations following the Olympics (India finished fourth) and now it's time to get back to reality. Next year is crucial with the Asian Games and our priority will be to win gold so we automatically qualify for the Paris Olympics. We will resume training with that target in mind," she said.
The team's resilience to bounce back from a series of losses in the league stage to beat Ireland (1-0) and South Africa (4-3) changed the course of the Olympic Games for them. Making it to the quarterfinal was the team's first priority and getting past the mighty Australians 1-0 in the first knockout game ensured the entire nation rallied behind them ahead of the semifinal clash against Argentina women.
Looking back at the turn of events, Savita said, "Now that I have finally had some time to reflect on our performance, I do feel we achieved something outstanding, and the best part was the journey to get till here over the past five years. We have endured a lot as a team and as individuals faced tremendous odds to reach this level. I think we will always cherish this journey.
"Though we lost very closely to Argentina in the semifinals, we wanted to give our everything against Great Britain (in the bronze-medal match) and we really wanted that medal around our necks and after beating Australia, we really believed this was achievable," added Savita, who has been nominated for the FIH Women's Goalkeeper of the Year award. She has been nominated alongside Argentina's Belen Succi and Great Britain's Maddie Hinch.
India had finished 12th at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and few had expected them to be medal contenders in Tokyo.
"But now I feel the expectations will grow (after India finished fourth in Tokyo). People have seen that we can perform at top tournaments, and I believe we can live up to these expectations. We now have the experience, and the team is poised to achieve bigger feats. The experience in Rio made us believe in ourselves and we really worked hard to get to this level, now we will work on taking it to the next level," added Savita.