India: ‘Gained lot of confidence since title win in Women’s Junior Asia Cup, hope to secure medal in Chile,’ says Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team Captain Preeti

~Preeti will lead the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team at FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023~

Bengaluru, 23rd November 2023: Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team defender Preeti is set to lead her side in the upcoming FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023 to be held in Santiago, Chile from 29th November 2023 to 10th December 2023. 16 teams will be competing in the tournament divided into four pools. India are placed in Pool C along with Germany, Belgium, and Canada. The defending Champions the Netherlands are placed alongside South Africa, Australia, and Chile in Pool A, while Argentina, Korea, Spain, and Zimbabwe form Pool B. England, the United States, New Zealand and Japan are grouped together in Pool D. 

India will begin their campaign in Chile on 29th November against Canada and will hope to get off to a solid start. In the landmark 50th episode of Hockey Te Charcha, a podcast series launched by Hockey India, Preeti, who also led India to a Gold medal at the Women’s Junior Asia Cup earlier this year, spoke on the team’s preparations ahead of the tournament. 

“We are all quite excited to compete in the tournament. We have gained a lot of confidence since our title win at the Women’s Junior Asia Cup and we wish to carry forward the same momentum. We have been preparing well and have had really good training sessions under Coach Tushar Khandekar. In a short span of time, we have held important discussions about the team’s structure and how we can improve our skills. We are also working on developing in key areas.” 

India defeated Korea 2-1 in the final of the Women’s Junior Asia Cup in June to claim the Gold medal. The win helped India secure a position at the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023. Preeti says the team is now vying to bring laurels from the prestigious tournament where a medal has been elusive since 2013 when India had secured a Bronze medal. 

 “After successful campaigns at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, hockey has been regaining prominence once again in the country. Hockey India has also been focusing on the development of players at the grassroots level and a lot of attention is now being also given to the junior teams. This has really boosted the morale of all the players. There are expectations from everyone that we will win a medal this year in Chile. So, we will work hard to fulfil those expectations,” Preeti said. 

 The Indian Women’s Hockey Team had finished in the fourth position at the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2021, after going down 2-2 (0-3 SO) in a thriller against England in the Bronze medal match. Preeti was a part of the team that had travelled to Potchefstroom, South Africa, and talked about her learnings from the tournament. 

“I was really young the last time and only featured in one match. I feel we used to lose our concentration in the final few minutes of matches in the past which would affect our results. But this has been a big learning for us this year that a game is not over till the final whistle. We know we have to keep similar levels of intensity till the end of the match,” she said.  

Preeti, who hails from Sonipat, Haryana, gained interest in the sport at a young age when she was studying in the 6th class. Belonging to a small town, Preeti saw playing hockey as a means for her to go outside her home and spend time with her friends. At her household, it was hard for her to step outside due to restrictions imposed by elder members of the family.

Preeti started training at Pritam Siwach’s Academy in Sonipat where she realised that she needed to work hard to continue her gradual growth in the sport. Preeti would leave the house quietly, telling her family that she is going to study so that she can continue her training. “If I would get to spend time at the training grounds, I would feel content, even if I get scolded at home,” she recalled. 

In her younger days, Preeti received plenty of support from her father, who was a wrestler during his young days but had to quit the sport due to an injury. At the age of 13, she suffered an injury on her leg during a district-level match and had to get surgery. She was advised to be on complete bed rest for over a year and her doctors raised doubts whether she would be able to play hockey again. 

“It was a tough time for me and I was quite depressed at that time. My father did not tell me that doctors have hinted that I may not play again. He told me that if I wished to play hockey, I could continue to do so. I also received a lot of support from my coach who constantly motivated me and I was able to return to the sport. After returning to the sport when I was in 8th or 9th class, I started taking sport even more seriously,” she said. 

Now, Preeti has become a regular member of the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team and has earned 14 international caps for the team. She also featured for the Indian Women’s Hockey Team that competed at the Hero FIH Hockey 5s Lausanne 2022.

“I feel proud of my achievements and I feel like I have answered all those who doubted me. I feel women can also achieve big things in sports, and I hope I can set an example for others so that more women do not have to face similar troubles that I had to face,” Preeti said. 

Now, as the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team gears up for their toughest challenge of the year in Chile, Preeti expressed hopes that the Indian fans will continue to cheer for them, as she feels it would keep her side motivated throughout the tournament. 

“A message for Indian fans would be that they continue to support us as they did during the Women’s Junior Asia Cup. Hearing their voices makes us feel that we are a part of a larger family and increases our confidence,” she signed off.

Spotify Link: https://open.spotify.com/episode/1tX1ZOro2VOqWbwWlVsnFp?si=tHsJhMpkSOiv-X7Gmpk9xg

By Hockey India

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