India won a total of 22 gold, 16 silver and 23 bronze medals at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in mid-2022. Among those 61 medals, some were memorable because they came as a surprise, there were a few more that were nailed on, but one medal in particular brought plenty of joy to the players as well as spectators.
The bronze medal for Indian women’s hockey team at CWG 2022 doesn’t necessarily come under the unexpected category, because they have been playing well for a while. But what perhaps made it a tad bit more memorable was the pre-match setting. Before the smiles, there had to be tears.
The semifinal against Australia, one of the best teams in the world, went the distance after a superb collective performance by India. But an officiating error at the start of the penalty shootout saw Australia’s missed effort being retaken, and it threw India off their game enough to lose the tiebreaker. There was anger, disappointment and a whole lot of frustration as India missed out on a spot in the final that, on the balance of the game, they deserved.
They had to now pick themselves up for a consolation prize. It wouldn’t be a silver or gold, but they had a bronze to battle for and it is at this stage that they faced heartbreak at Tokyo Olympics too. Another heartbreak in a year might have been tough to take. In a match that again went the distance, the Indian women defeated New Zealand in the shootout and tears of frustration were replaced by tears of joy. The players got together and threw head coach Janneke Schopman in the air and caught her to celebrate.
“No, not scary. I knew they would probably catch me. So I trust them,” Schopman told Scroll.in recently. “But yeah, I felt uncomfortable, because it’s just not about me, you know, it’s about them.”
Janneke Schopman interview: ‘CWG bronze was confirmation that we’re doing a lot of things well’
There is a genuine team bonding that is visible whenever this squad steps out on the field, whether it is in the tears of losing or the smiles of winning. It is not just something they keep repeating in interviews, because words can only convey so much. Their actions when they are out their playing matches reflect that team spirit the most, something that has been true for both the men’s and women’s teams in the last couple of years.
That meant we got a chance to witness a little bit of that camaraderie between the teams too at the Games Village in Birmingham when the men’s hockey players gave the women a guard of honour after they won the bronze medal match. It was a moment that went viral from Birmingham, and you could instantly see why.