Focus will be on fitness and recovery as the Indian women’s hockey team looks to play quality matches against top sides as part of its preparation for the Tokyo Olympics, said skipper Rani Rampal.

The Indian team is currently in Bengaluru for the ongoing national coaching camp which will end on December 15. After a three-week break for Christmas and New Year, the core group will return to camp on January 5 to prepare for a tour to New Zealand.

“One of the primary focus for us will be on fitness and recovery. While the plan is to play top quality matches against good teams in the lead up to the Olympics, all of us need to manage our body and mind well,” she said.

“We will need to peak at the right time and going by the weather in Tokyo around the time of the Olympics, I believe fitness will play a huge part in how teams fare,” she added.

It has been an eventful season for India as the team sealed their Tokyo 2020 berth, making back-to-back Olympic appearance for the first time. In the lead up to the Olympic qualifiers, Rani Rampal and Co also scripted creditable victories against quality sides like Spain, Ireland, Japan, China, Korea, and England.

Their feat has brought several accolades, awards and recognition in this past one year which Rani sees as a new era for women’s hockey in the country.

“The fact that people never expected any great result from the Indian women’s team always bothered us. No one expected us to win, just a participation would bring satisfaction. But now I see that attitude change towards the Indian women’s hockey team,” she said.

“We have proved with our performances in 2018 and 2019 that we can achieve greatness too.”

The experienced striker received the Sportsperson of the Year Award at the FICCI India Sports Awards in Delhi on Wednesday.

“Personally this award is a big boost for me to do better and contribute to my team’s performance. I also think this kind of recognition highlights Indian women’s hockey among a different genre of people who are not necessarily hockey followers,” she said.

With PTI Inputs