Success and defeat are two sides of the same coin and there is no shame in losing gracefully. This sentiment echoed among hockey lovers as dejected Indian women hockey players lay on the ground in immense pain following the denial by Great Britain in Tokyo to secure their maiden Bronze medal at the Olympics. It is not tough to understand the pangs of today’s failure but with zilch expectations, the women in blue came tantalizingly close to win a medal for India is nothing short of a victory for the whole of India and the team as well. What you saw of these girls on the field in Tokyo might not have gone unnoticed by those glued to the TV sets, however, their agonizing tales, each has one, are oblivious to the majority of the curious eyes and ugly reflections being conveniently ignored in our society for decades.
India’s star striker Vandana Kataria’s hattrick against South Africa is a slice of history to be cherished eternally but the casteist slurs against her family members in Uttarakhand by some upper caste fanatics, after the team’s loss to Argentina in the Tokyo games, is something really hard to bear but people from marginalised segments have grown used to the same. The culprits in question through those caste-based profanities were expressing their joy over the defeat and in the same breath, they ascribed the loss to her lowly position in the caste hierarchy. Adding more sarcasm to their sadistic pleasure, they even said that India will keep on losing as long as they keep selecting members from such a community, Dalit, as part of the team. It is not hard to gauge the extent of torture she and her family members have to endure in real life. Then you have Neha Goyal, a victim of regular violence due to an alcoholic father. There is Nikki Pradhan as well, belonging to the tribal belt of Jharkhand, for whom even basic essentials come with a heavy price tag. There are several other tragic stories as well. All these sagas make it apparent why even a fourth-place finish at this year’s Olympics is considered an extraordinary feat by the women’s hockey team.
Unlike India’s Men’s hockey squad, there is no glorious history associated with the Women’s hockey team at the Olympics. They started decently in the 1980 Moscow Olympics when women’s events were held for the first time in the games’ history, by finishing fourth. After this, they only got qualified for the Rio Olympics where they finished sixth. However, outside of Olympics, the women’s team has won Gold in the ’82 Asian Games and under the able leadership of Suraj Lata Devi, the Women’s Hockey squad secured Gold in the 2002 Commonwealth Games, 2003 Afro-Asian Games and 2004 Women’s Hockey Asia Cup. So, they have very good returns, showcasing their immaculate skills outside the world of the Olympics.
Coming back to this year’s Olympics, just like the men’s team, Rani Rampal (Captain) and her teammates hardly evoked any kind of excitement among sports fans. Their Tokyo Olympic campaign got off to the worst possible start when they lost their first three matches in succession. Then the turnaround happened in their next three matches, including the Quarters where they stunned the Aussies(1-0). In the Semis they lost to Argentina (1-2) in a tightly fought contest with penalty corners undoing their valiant efforts on the field. Today, for the Bronze play-off, they were extremely brilliant against Great Britain, especially in the second quarter of the game but the lead in the last quarter gained by Britain dashed all hopes of a historic finish. Finally, it turned out to be an encore of the 1980 Olympics.
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They might have been unable to go beyond their exploits at the Moscow games but the 18 power puff girls have made every woman across the world proud. They can be well pleased with what they have achieved in 2021 in Tokyo as unlike in the1980, which had a round-robin format, the women locked horns with some fiercely competitive opponents to qualify for the Semi-Final. Also, the amount of adversities and toxicities these bunch of fighters had to bear to break into the team makes the defeat as sweet as the victory. Well done girls, the whole nation is proud of your feats.