Fitness will be key as the Indian women’s hockey team eye consistency in the run-up to next year’s Tokyo Olympics, chief coach Sjoerd Marijne said on Saturday.

Having qualified for the 2020 Olympics earlier this month, the Indian women’s team is now gearing up for the upcoming tournaments, starting with a tour of New Zealand in January next year.

“We have chartered out our plans for the next seven months and we have a clear vision of what we need to improve on and the level we seek to achieve ahead of the Olympics,” Marijne said.

“While we play some very good teams in the lead up to the Olympics where we look forward to achieving consistent performance, it is very important to keep the players’ minds and legs fresh.

Back in the Sports Authority of India, Bengaluru for the national coaching camp, it is business as usual for the team albeit with greater focus now on a podium finish at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Talking about the review meeting that happened earlier this week, Marijne said: “The review meeting was not all about ‘well done, congratulations’ but it was more about how we almost threw away the second match. I expressed my anger without mincing any words.

“The way we played the first two quarters in the second match against USA in the Olympic Qualifiers was something we never want to repeat again,” said Marijne, as he recalled the exchange of views about the team’s performance against USA during the review meeting involving players and support staff.

India had lost the second match 1-4 to USA in the double-leg FIH Qualifiers but still made it to the Olympics after beating USA 6-5 on aggregate, riding on their 5-1 thrashing against the same opponent in the first match.

“A major take away from that match was the team’s ability to fight back. That is the quality I really like about this team. They will never give up and they have on several occasions shown that burning desire to win and to play at home against a strong team calls for a lot of nerves,” Marijne said.

With PTI Inputs