NEW DELHI: The Indian men's and women's hockey teams embraced 2022 with the objective of building on their good performance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
With a lot of expectations on their shoulders, both the Indian men's and women's teams put up a strong show in an action-packed calendar year.
From finishing third in their debut FIH Hockey Pro League 2021/22 season to clinching a historic Bronze at Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games to winning the inaugural edition of FIH Women's Nations Cup 2022, the Indian Women's Hockey Team made giant strides in 2022.
Indian women's hockey goalkeeper Savita said that after two years of very limited hockey due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were really fortunate that they got to play a lot of exciting tournaments this year. "It was an action-packed 2022 and I believe we made the most of it. We focused on playing good hockey and that really helped us grow from strength to strength," she said.
The Indian men's hockey team too had an eventful 2022. They clinched the Bronze medal at the Asia Cup in Jakarta with a new set of players. This was followed by the FIH Hockey 5s title and silver medal at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. They also finished third in the FIH Hockey Pro League 2021/22 season.
"We did well, we played good hockey this year, but I believe we can do better than this. Overall, the year was full of positives. There were a lot of learnings involved, and we have a good momentum that will help us at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar - Rourkela next month," Indian Men's Hockey drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh said.
Experienced forward Vandana Katariya was bestowed Padma Shri award, while defender Deep Grace Ekka received the Arjuna Award for their contributions to the Indian women's hockey team.
Both Indian men's and women's team bagged five awards at the FIH Hockey Star Awards 2022- Savita (FIH Goalkeeper of The Year), Janneke Schopman (FIH Coach of the Year) Harmanpreet (FIH Player of the Year), PR Sreejesh (FIH Goalkeeper of The Year) and Graham Reid (FIH Coach of the Year).
One of the biggest highlights of 2022 was the Indian women's hockey team winning the inaugural edition of the FIH Women's Nations Cup 2022 held in Valencia earlier this month. The Savita-led team remained unbeaten in the tournament. They topped Pool B, edged past Ireland 2-1 in a shootout in the semi-final before beating hosts Spain 1-0 in a thrilling Final to clinch the title. The win secured the Indian team's place at the 2023-24 FIH Hockey Women's Pro League.
With their eyes on the next year's calendar, Savita said, "It's a great feeling to secure a place in the next season of the FIH Pro League. Our goals for 2023 remain the same, we want to keep improving and doing better each and every day. We have the Asian Games scheduled next year, and the ultimate goal will be to win a Gold medal to secure a place at the Paris 2024 Olympics."
The Indian men's team, who are gearing up for the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar - Rourkela, started their new season of the FIH Hockey Pro League on a positive note. They beat New Zealand 4-3 and 7-4 and registered a 2-2 (3-1 SO) win and a 2-3 loss against Spain in their opening set of matches which were held in Bhubaneswar in October. They also travelled to Australia for a five-match test series against the World No.1side as part of their preparations for the World Cup.
Harmanpreet, who will lead India at the upcoming World Cup said their immediate target is to do well and start the new year with a podium finish at World Cup. "We have been given one more opportunity to play the prestigious event on our home soil, and we will give our absolute best to make our country proud by finishing on the podium."
"The World Cup will set the tone for the whole year. We have the Asian Games lined up, and our target is to win a Gold medal as it will ensure we secure a place at the Paris 2024 Olympics. The FIH Pro League matches will play a vital role in our preparations for the Asian Games," he added.