Neha Goyal, 24, from Sonepat in Haryana, was an integral part of the first-ever Indian women’s hockey team that reached an Olympic semi-final at the 2020 Tokyo Games last month.
Indians missed out on a medal after pushing Great Britain to the edge in the bronze medal match but Neha has some positives to take away from the team’s historic performance in the Tokyo Games.
“Our performance at the Tokyo Olympics has changed our mentality and given us the self belief to take on any team in the world. Our win over Australia in the quarter-final brought about a shift in our mentality. Australia had reached the knockout stage after topping their Pool ‘B’ by winning all their matches. Defeating them by a solitary goal gave us a lot of confidence, which we will carry with us going forward as we prepare to play more important tournaments in the future. Along with a change in our mentality, we have improved our training and fitness levels as well,” said Neha.
Making her Olympic debut stands out as a landmark moment for Neha in her fledgling career.
“I was nervous, but very excited. It has always been my dream to play in the Olympics since I started playing hockey. This was my first time, so I did not take too much pressure upon myself and tried to enjoy the moment. I also gained some confidence in our tours of Argentina and Germany before the Olympics, where I felt that we were able to compete well with some really good teams. In the end, the team performed well, and I was happy with my individual performance over the course of the tournament as well,” added the tenacious, yet skilful midfielder.
Moving forward, Neha’s ambition is to further polish her individual game so that she can continue to contribute to the success of the team in future competitions. “Our next target is to do well at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games in China and the 2022 World Cup next year. I am continuing to work on my own game so I can continue to contribute to the team’s fortunes. As a centre, my job is to be effective on both ends of the field by helping out the defence, as well as the attack. I feel I am a skilful player, and attacking comes more naturally to me, but I want to maintain a balance in my game,” Neha concluded.
The FIH women’s World Cup will be held simultaneously in Terrassa, Spain and Amstelveen, the Netherlands from 1 to 17 July, 2022. However, Indian Olympic Association president and FIH chief Narinder Batra said earlier this month that it is highly unlikely that the Indian teams will skip the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games in order to hit peak form during the Asiad, which is a qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
The Birmingham meet is to begin from July 28 to August 8 while the Asian Games is to begin from September 10 to 15, the difference between the two tournaments is just 35 days.