India hockey star Sushila Chanu looks for home help against USA

The midfielder was part of the Indian squad that qualified for the Olympics after a 36-year gap.

By Saurabh Shankar ·

India’s experienced midfielder Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam is determined to get past a difficult United States team in their FIH Olympic qualifier and qualify for her second consecutive Olympic Games. The 27-year-old was part of India’s squad when they made it to the 2016 Rio Games after a 36-year absence.

“We know how it felt representing the country at the Olympics when we qualified for it after a 36-year gap last time in Rio. However, when we came back, there was a unanimous feeling around the group that we need to push ourselves and make sure that we are consistently putting in the performances which will help us in qualifying for the next edition.

“We have made huge strides from the previous Olympics, and now we are all very determined to secure our place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics," said Sushila while addressing the media in Bhubaneswar.

Home advantage

The former Indian captain believes that playing their Olympic qualifiers at home will be a massive advantage, and gives them a great chance of qualifying for Tokyo 2020.

Indian midfielder Sushila Chanu believes playing at home would be an advantage for her team. Photo courtesy: Hockey India

"We have the best opportunity as we are playing at home against the USA. We will have the support of the home crowd, and even though the USA are a strong unit, we have full belief in ourselves and in the way we play.

“We have made huge strides in our game from 2016, and now is the time to show it to the world that the Indian Women's Hockey team is here to challenge for the top honours, regardless of the opposition we face. That is the kind of confidence that is instilled in the team and we are determined to produce the results in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers Odisha," said Sushila.

Injury return

2018 was a year to forget for the Manipur-born midfielder. She suffered a terrible ligament injury, which caused her to miss the women’s hockey World Cup that year as well as the 2018 Asian Games. Sushila also opened up about her injury, how she coped with missing major competitions and her road to recovery at the press conference.

“It was unfortunate that I suffered a long-term injury in 2018, and had to miss major tournaments. It was a very difficult period for me personally as I was low on confidence, and when you are injured, most of the time you are supposed to train alone with your trainer."

"There were times when I would doubt myself and think about the what-ifs, but the support I received from my family, support staff and my teammates was immense, it helped me in making a comeback," revealed the midfielder.

Back to back

Two games in two days will define India's destiny.

The opening encounter against the USA will take place at the Kalinga Stadium on Friday 1st November, starting at 1800 IST.

Then the teams will meet again on Saturday 2nd at the same time in Bhubaneswar.