By our Sports Reporter
GUWAHATI, Feb 13: The Shah Rukh Khan-starrer sports biopic 'Chak De India' depicting the triumph of human spirit over adversity while at the same time tearing into bureaucratic incompetence and government neglect, has been an inspiration to revive the long-forgotten tiol game of hockey.
And after a gap of 36 years, the Indian women's hockey team, propelled by the reel life effort, is set to recreate 'Chak De' in real at the Rio Olympics.
Captain of the team Ritu Rani says there definitely has been some 'Chak De India' impact on her team which has shown gradual improvement.
The Ritu Rani-led Indian eves, most of whom were young and little experienced, had hardly any problems in collecting the gold at the ongoing South Asian Games here.
"Chak De India has had a positive impact on Indian women's hockey. I am playing hockey at the intertiol level for nearly 10 years now. However, there is a lot of difference between the response we got before and after the film. Now crowds come to watch our game…the fan base has developed and we are getting better facilities, which in turn have helped us raise the standard of our game. New players too are starting to join the game. The strength of the reserve bench has gone up now. So kahi kahi pe to woh film ka impact hai (there has been an effect of the film somewhere)," she said, in an exclusive interview to The Sentinel.
Ritu, who made her debut in the senior team in 2006 at the Doha Asian Games, was not even born when the Indian women's hockey team made their last appearance in Olympics held in Moscow in 1980.
Terming the qualification a "proud moment", the captain said, "It's a dream come true. I always wanted to play at the Olympics and filly the moment has come. It is a great feeling for me."
On the preparations for the big event, Ritu, who had earlier visited Guwahati in 2007 to play for Harya at the tiol Games, said, "Our preparation for the Rio Olympics is going on full throttle. Our participation in this South Asian Games is also part of our preparation. We knew winning a gold medal in Guwahati will not be a difficult job. But here we tried to find out our grey areas which require further attention before we go to Rio."
Ritu said the federation has also arranged several intertiol exposure tours ahead of the upcoming Olympics and as a part of it, the team will play around 25 intertiol matches. India will soon fly to South Africa to play against teams like Germany and Scotland besides the hosts. "We will play few more matches in other countries also," she said.
"It's a very tough competition. Our target at Rio will be to finish as high as possible," she added.
It is really a positive change. Many new facilities, including training, are being added to women's hockey which was not there earlier. The Indian eves are therefore keeping their fingers crossed for Rio later this year.