‘Best moment of my career,’ – Sangita Kumari on finishing as top scorer in Women’s Asian Champions Trophy
Sangita, who hails from Jharkhand, scored six goals to win the Riding Star of the Tournament award.
The Indian women’s hockey team lifted the spirits of the jam-packed crowd in Ranchi at the Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh Astro Turf Hockey Stadium on Sunday. They defeated Japan 4-0 in the final to claim the gold medal in the Jharkhand Women’s Asian Champions Trophy 2023. With goals from Jharkhand’s own Sangita Kumari (17′), Neha (46′), Lalremsiami (57′), and Vandana Katariya (60′), India secured the prestigious title for the second time, with their previous title win coming in 2016.
Scoring a goal in the final of the tournament in front of home fans was an unforgettable moment for Sangita Kumari, who described it as one of the best moments of her career.
“I am grateful for the support staff, my teammates, and coaches for trusting me, and I am proud I was able to repay their faith. In a final, it is always important to get an early goal, and I am glad I was able to deliver for the team,” Sangita said.
Sangita Kumari, the highest goalscorer for India with six goals in the tournament, also won the Rising Star of the Tournament Award. “This has been one of the best moments of my career. More than anything, I am just elated. I was able to contribute to our team’s win, and I hope to continue in the same vein of form in the future,” Sangita added.
India had a dominant run in the tournament, going undefeated throughout and winning the trophy. The hosts, India, began the tournament with a 7-1 victory over Thailand, followed by a 5-0 victory over Malaysia. India demonstrated their attacking and defensive prowess with 2-1 victories over China and Japan. India finished the round-robin stage at the top of the table with 15 points after defeating Korea 5-0. India advanced to the semi-finals by defeating Korea 2-0 to secure their place in the final.
Another star performer for the Indian team during the tournament was Jharkhand’s Salima Tete, who was presented with the Jharkhand Player of the Tournament Award for her performance. Salima not only scored five goals in the tournament but also created crucial opportunities for India inside the circle.
“It was an honor to perform in front of the home fans in an international tournament for the first time. A lot of friends and family were able to see me compete at the stadium, which really boosted my confidence and gave me the strength to perform to the best of my abilities,” Salima said.
In recognition of their exceptional title-winning performance, Hockey India announced a reward of Rs 3 lakhs for each member of the Indian women’s hockey team and Rs 1.50 lakhs for each member of the support staff.
“It was great to see the massive support from Ranchi fans for hockey during the tournament, who made their voices heard every time we stepped out on the field. Playing in front of home fans will be a memory that will remain with me for a lifetime,” Salima added.
The Indian women’s hockey team will now return to Ranchi for the Women’s FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers scheduled to be held at Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh AstroTurf Hockey Stadium in Ranchi, Jharkhand from 13th January to 21st January 2024. Veteran Indian defender Nikki Pradhan, who also hails from Jharkhand, believes India would have an advantage going into the tournament, having already played at the stadium.
“It was great to see Ranchi fans being so loud and packing the stadium in numbers to cheer for us, and we are thankful for their support. We have already played so many tight games here in this tournament, and hence, now we are aware of the conditions, the turf, and the atmosphere. This would give us an advantage heading into the all-important Olympics Qualifiers in January,” Nikki Pradhan said.
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Eight teams will compete at the FIH Qualifiers in Ranchi, with India placed in Pool B along with New Zealand, the United States, and Italy. Germany, Japan, Chile, and the Czech Republic form Pool A.
“We know there are some strong teams that will be competing alongside us. Our aim is to continue our dominance and get positive results. Having already played here, we know what to expect, and we will work on the areas where we feel we need to improve before the FIH Olympics Qualifiers,” Nikki Pradhan signed off.