The Indian women's hockey team missed the Olympic medal by a whisker. The girls in blue fought valiantly and won the hearts of the entire nation. Not many predicted or expected them to reach this far as they entered their first ever semi-final at the Olympics.
The man behind the success of these girls was their coach Sjoerd Marijne's who first helped them to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and after that helped them finish top-4 in the showpiece event.
Sjoerd Marijne shared the success story with The Bridge on how he transpired this bunch of talented girls to believe in themselves and beat three-time Olympic champion Australia in the quarter-final match.
"I think we did really well. We managed the expectations in the quarter-finals and we beat Australia. We believed we could do it and we played our best match against Australia at the right moment. I am really proud after playing well against Argentina and Great Britain. Very difficult matches and the girls are not used to playing 8 matches in the tournament but we were still very close. They gave everything and that was the big takeaway." said the coach Sjoerd Marijne while speaking to The Bridge.
SjoerdThe Rani Rampal-led side started off on the worst possible note losing their matches to Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain by big margins conceding a total of 11 goals and scoring only 2 but as per the coach the start was not that poor as they faced tough and much higher-ranked opponents.
"I don't think that the start was bad because you were playing the Netherlands and Germany, the two best countries in the world. So, we knew from there on it was very difficult and we also knew South Africa and Ireland were next and we worked hard for these matches as we had to win and that's something we did. We saw the clips of the movie. I am not going to tell you which movie you can read from my book." explained the coach Sjoerd Marijne.
The Indian women's team because of three consecutive defeats where on the verge of relegation but they clawed their way back by beating teams like Ireland and South Africa to enter the knockout stage.
Vandana Katariya's hat-trick paved way for an emphatic 4-3 win in their last pool A match against the Proteas. In the crucial quarter-final match against Australia Gurjit Kaur scored the solitary goal and goal-keeper Savita Punia maintained a clean sheet.
Penalty corner specialist Gurjit Kaur was the stand-out performer right through scoring a goal in the semi-final against 5-time Olympic medallist Argentina and also scored a brace in the bronze medal match against Great Britain.
But the Spaniard Sjoerd Marijne believes that the credit goes to the entire team and not the individuals as a goal scored is a combined effort of each player on the turf.
"It is not only about Vandana and Gurjit. Someone has to do the injection, someone has to stop the ball, someone must get the PC and there are variations. So, it's a team effort." expressed the Indian women's hockey team coach Sjoerd Marijne.
The Indian women's team lost to Argentina 1-2 in the semi-final and lost to Great Britain in the bronze medal match 2-3. These two matches could have gone either ways and result could have been something else.
This result might not have helped India win a medal but has won the hearts of the entire nation and the coach is very proud of their hard work and efforts but at the same time has warned them of any complacency with the kind of reception they are getting.
"I am really proud of the way these girls have played but I would not want them to feel like stars because if you do that then you will get complacent. It is important for them to stay focused." explained the coach Sjoerd Marijne who is on his way out.
Sjoerd Marijne originally joined as a coach of the Indian men's hockey team but somehow could not get along with them.
Luckily for him, he joined the Indian women's hockey team and guided them to their first ever semi-final in the Olympics, a team that finished a dismal 12th in Rio Olympics 2016. The Spaniard will always be remembered as a coach who transformed the Indian women's hockey and helped them finish top-4 when no one expected them to.