New Delhi: The Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams jumped one spot each to achieve their highest-ever world rankings at number 3 and 8 respectively, riding on their historic campaign at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Indian men’s team, which ended a 41-year-old medal drought by clinching a historic bronze in the Olympics, was placed behind gold-medallist Belgium and silver-medallist Australia.
“It’s the reward of all the hard work and dedication towards the game we love, towards the game which has given us everything,” said Indian men’s team captain Manpreet Singh in a release issued by Hockey India.
“This ranking and the Olympic medal after 41 years mark the rise of Indian Hockey…There is no looking back now, we have set the benchmark for ourselves and would like to grow from here.”
While the men’s side claimed the bronze, the women’s team narrowly missed out a medal after going down to Great Britain in the hard-fought third-place play-off, to end at the fourth place.
“We were very close to finishing on the podium, and it is hurting the team that we didn’t. However, looking at the bright side, we have made remarkable progress in recent years, and I am really proud of it,” women’s team skipper Rani Rampal said.
“Finishing in the top four at Olympics, and climbing to the 8th position in world rankings, is a very big thing for us, and this has boosted our confidence, it will certainly help us grow going forward.”
Manpreet and Co. Had finished second in Pool A, winning four out of five group phase matches and defeated Great Britain 3-1 in quarterfinal before losing 2-5 against Belgium in their historic semifinal.
However, they staged a remarkable comeback to grab a 5-4 win over Germany to clinch a historic bronze medal at Olympic Games and as a result climbed up to their best-ever world ranking.
“I must admit, I feel privileged to have played a part in the rise of Indian Hockey. It’s a great feeling that we won the historic Bronze Medal as well as achieving the highest ranking on the back of our solid performance in the Olympics,” Indian men’s team chief coach Graham Reid said.
“We played like a unit, with the right kind of attitude, and I think that has helped the team achieve this feat.”
After suffering three losses in the initial phase, the women’s team pulled off arguably its biggest upset by beating world number 3 Australia in what was its first ever quarterfinal of the Olympics.
However, the women’s team lost both semifinal and the bronze medal play-off match against Argentina and Great Britain, respectively.
Outgoing Indian women’s team chief coach Sjoerd Marijne said, “Achieving 8th rank in the world ranking and finishing among the top four at Olympics, is a big step for Indian Women’s hockey, and I think every team will definitely take us seriously.
“The athletes have that desire to learn and improve each and every day, and I feel this is one of the biggest reasons why we could finish among the top four.”
The men’s team was ranked No.4 in March last year on the back of their scintillating performances in the first three rounds of the second edition of FIH Hockey Pro League.
On the other hand, the women’s team’s earlier highest world ranking was 9th, which they accomplished by producing their best finish (Quarter Finals) at the World Cup in London in 2018.
Having reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup, the women’s team had become the top-ranked Asian team and went on to clinch the silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.