With an eye on the Olympic Qualifiers later this year, the Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams on Sunday left for Tokyo to take part in the Test events, starting on August 17.
The Olympic Test events are expected to provide good exposure to both the teams ahead of the Qualifiers in November.
The Indian men’s team will play against hosts Japan, New Zealand and Malaysia, while the women will be up against Australia, China and Japan.
“I believe this tournament is a good opportunity for youngsters to shine as we will all be watched closely ahead of the team selection for the Olympic Qualifiers,” said men’s team skipper Harmanpreet Singh.
He also said that the Test event will help the team understand the playing conditions in Tokyo, the venue of next year’s Olympics.
“We are positively working towards making the Olympic Qualification. Playing at this venue will help us understand the playing conditions there and we are looking forward to a good tournament,” said the defender dragflicker.
The women’s team captain Rani said her team’s aim in the upcoming tournament is to register an upset win over higher ranked Australia.
“We have done well against Japan and China in the past one year but the one team we are looking forward to do well against is Australia. A win against them will make a big impact for our team’s preparations for the Olympic Qualifier,” Rani said ahead of the team’s departure here.
The men’s team will play its first match against nemesis Malaysia and the women will take on hosts Japan on August 17.
Warm up for Olympic Qualifiers
India missed out on a direct qualification spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after they failed to win the gold medal at the Asian Games 2018. Japan, already guaranteed a place as the host nation, won both the men’s and women’s Asian Games gold medals to qualify on merit.
As a result, India had to take the longer road by first playing FIH Series Finals in Bhubaneswar (Men’s) and Hiroshoma (Women’s) which it won to qualify for the Olympic Qualifiers to be held either in November or December.
The FIH rankings at the end of September will decide the hosts of the Olympic Qualifiers. Currently, the men’s team is ranked fifth while the women’s team is ranked tenth in the world.