"This medal was necessary, very necessary", captain Savita Punia said after the Indian women's hockey team won its first medal in four years, beating New Zealand to the bronze medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
"We have missed on medals narrowly [in the past]," Savita said. "Our target was something else but a medal is a medal and the joy of winning a bronze medal is unparalleled. If we were in the final and if the result had gone against us then maybe we would not have celebrated like this."
She added, "We have so much capability in our team that we deserved to win the gold. But we had a tough time after what happened in the game against Australia. We worked as a team and our coach [Janneke] stuck with us and motivated us and that's why we are here [with the bronze]."
Savita produced three saves on Sunday, just days after she could not save any strokes in the shootout against Australia. "The coach trained me a lot for the shootout and gave me confidence and told me to trust myself. I did just that and focussed on the ball," she said.
She added, "The team was very disturbed after the loss to Australia and it was a sad moment for us. But we also knew that the bronze match will not be easy as New Zealand is a good team. We knew we had to fight until the very end and we motivated the team that we cannot go back empty-handed from here.
"I am really proud of the team. The last two months have been a long journey for us and to finish with a medal today....it has not been easy."
India coach Janneke Schopman echoed Savita's sentiments: "After we conceded in the last minute, I said to the girls: fine, we'll do it the hard way. It's what we're used to, we do it the hard way. We talked about it, I spoke to Savita about the shootout, she always prepares really well. Also told her to talk to the team about how she feels and how she feels about the players taking it (the penalty strokes). I think that helped a lot. You see people taking responsibility and it's not easy, but I was very happy with how we did it today."
She added, "I know we're doing a lot of things right and the outcome may not always be there. But for them, it's [the medal] so important. They deserve to get the medal, to have something tangible. Being a player, it's not just about that but the fact that you fight so hard and you won a medal. We've been close [to a medal] in the last years and now we finally have one and it means a lot to them. And to me!
Schopman, who was the assistant coach during the Indian team's Tokyo Olympics campaign, admitted the team needed to work on its penalty corner conversions. "I think it will be helpful to get a drag flick specialist in. I'm thinking out of the box but maybe some of the men's team could help us. We're training in the same venue and Harmanpreet (Singh) has a very good drag flick. Maybe I can have Gurjit (Kaur) train with them. We'll maybe get a [drag flick] specialist from the Netherlands as well to work with.
"We need to improve [on scoring from PCs] but all the teams have been struggling to score from PCs in women's hockey because the defences are getting better. It's definitely a point of attention for us and we will need to be better."
The Dutch coach added, "The incredible ability of the girls to keep fighting [stood out]. It's been tough. We lost to Spain, but had to go again. We lost to New Zealand, but had to go again. The fact that they always pick themselves up and stay together as a team, I think that's really special. I've seen it happen time and again when you don't get the results you want and everyone starts blaming one another and they fall apart but this team is very special, they stayed together and fought together."