Ranchi, 15 January: Pumped up by their impressive 3-1 win over New Zealand, India is eyeing a big win as they take on lowly Italy in their last league match of the Olympic Hockey Qualifiers here on Tuesday.
The main architect of this Indian Women's Team was midfielder Beauty Dungdung who returned to the national side in the Hockey Olympic Qualifiers .
The hosts India, which are placed in Pool B, earned an emphatic 3-1 win over New Zealand in their second game of the competition on Sunday, with Beauty Dungdung finding herself on the goal sheet along with Udita and Sangita Kumari.
After a 0-1 loss to the United States in their first game on Saturday, the crucial win over the Black Sticks has given India a boost of confidence ahead of their final Pool game against Italy set to take place on 16th January.
Beauty, who last featured for India in the Test matches against South Africa in Cape Town in January 2023, said that she is enjoying her return to the team and is glad she was able to make contribution in India's win on Sunday.
"I am enjoying my return to the team. It had been a long time since I have been a part of the squad. So, it feels good that I was able to make my way back into the team after an injury and was able to contribute in the win over New Zealand," she said.
The 21-year-old suffered a major injury early in February last year and had to undergo surgery in March. Beauty opened up on the tough rehabilitation period and explained how support from teammates and coaching staff kept her motivated.
"A week after the operation, I started the rehabilitation process. I was experiencing pain but I kept motivating myself. I was regularly doing the physiotherapy exercises that I was recommended by the medical staff. I realised it required a lot of focus. Until you have the correct mindset to return, it becomes even more difficult," Beauty recalled.
"Everyone gave me a lot of support during this time. It was the first time I was injured, so I was quite upset. Our Chief Coach Janneke Schopman motivated me and told me that each player learns from the injury period about what more they can improve in their game and how they can become mentally strong. I realized that if you have a strong mind, it helps in increasing your focus on your game," she further added.
Beauty, who hails from Simdega district, also expressed elation over having a chance to compete in the Olympic Qualifiers in front of the home crowd. The top three teams from the tournament will book a berth for the Paris Olympics and the midfielder said that she hopes India would earn a spot for the prestigious event.
"I am elated that this is the Olympic Qualifiers and I am getting a chance to play in front of my home crowd and my state. I am used to playing here, so it has been comparatively easier for me to get used to the conditions here. I am excited because my friends and family members are also getting to watch my matches," she said.
She further admitted that playing in the home state does add to the pressure and opened up on how the team prepares for the mental aspects of the game.
"There is always pressure because I am directly playing a major tournament after injury. But if we let this pressure take over our minds, it would increase our struggle. Our team does yoga and mindfulness exercises every day which relaxes us. Our motto is to not take any pressure before any match and always do our best," she said.
Asked about the team's strategies ahead of the next game, Beauty said that her side will not take any teams lightly. "All the teams in the competition are equally tough. We do not take any competition lightly. Italy have performed well and have shown they will not make it easy for any opposition. We will study their games and try to stick to our strengths and hope we can achieve a positive result," she added.