| South Korean women in traditional costumes during the rehearsal for the Asian Games opening ceremony in Busan Wednesday. (AFP)
Busan: Riding high on the success of the Commonwealth Games, the Indian women’s hockey team is eyeing its chances to win a medal at the September 29-October 14 Asian Games here.
India’s prospects of winning a medal have been greatly enhanced after the number of participants in the Games was reduced to four following the withdrawal of some teams.
World champions China, Olympic silver medallists South Korea and Japan are the other contenders apart from India.
The matches will be played on round-robin basis with the final slated for October 11.
“All the four teams are good and have the capacity to win gold. So we are not taking anyone lightly,” coach G. S. Bhangu said during the preparation camp in New Delhi.
“Our preparation is aimed at mixing speed with skill as the Koreans and Chinese lay emphasis on fast and short passes,” Bhangu said.
Suraj Lata, who will continue to lead the team which is a blend of experience and youth, was also realistic about the team’s chances at the Games. “We are expecting a medal in Busan but not gold,” she said.
India had won the silver at the last edition of the games in Bangkok.
Competition in the women’s section was introduced in 1982 New Delhi Games and India have been showing promising results at the Asian level.
Also, their Commonwealth gold should keep them in good stead even against China who have the raw potential to emerge as a formidable force.
China lost to India in the Asia Cup in Delhi two years ago, but they have pushed their standards up ever since and stunned the hockey world last month when they won the women’s Champions Trophy in Macau.
Bhangu also warned of the Chinese, saying they would be the team to watch out for in the Games. South Korea and Japan have also the potential to peak at the right time and throw up a strong challenge to their rivals.
For India, Pritam Siwach and Jyoti Kullu are likely to play a pivotal role in the centre up front.
“They will work in tandem with one of them staying back and the other going up. The idea is to prevent the Chinese and Koreans from passing left to right fast,” the Indian coach had said.
Tingoleima Chanu, Helen Mary, Amandeep Kaur, Suman Bala, Kanti Bala, Suraj Lata Devi (captain), Sumrai Tete, Sita Gossain, Masira Surin, Mamta Kharab, Manjinder Kaur, Pritam Siwach, Jyoti Sunita Kullu, Sanggai Ibemhal Chanu, Adline Kerketta, Saba Anjum.