The mood at the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) here in Bengaluru was jubilant as the victorious Indian Junior Women's Hockey Team arrived to a champion's welcome following their historic feat at the Junior Women's Asia Cup that concluded in Kakamigahara, Japan. The Indian Junior Women's Team players were welcomed by officials from SAI, Bengaluru while several onlookers beelined to click selfies with the young stars.
Elated by the warm welcome, Captain Preeti said, "We are really overwhelmed with all the love and support we have received throughout the tournament. We didn't expect such a warm welcome and ever since we stepped out of the flight, we have been received with so much appreciation from everyone right from the airport officials, to fellow travellers and officials from SAI and hockey fraternity. It was so nice of them to come all the way to the airport, post-midnight only to welcome us."
Preeti also added that this incredible feat could not have been possible without the continued support of Hockey India, SAI, TOPS NCOE and Odisha State Government. "I believe we have chosen the right sport at the right time. We have a very well-backed program in TOPS NCOE here in SAI, Bengaluru where all our requirements are taken care of. Hockey India has ensured we have the best coaching staff and all the players in the group are selected from National Championships and Khelo India Games – giving talented players a huge opportunity to make a career in the sport. Odisha Govt's backing has also added to this mega support system we have. With everyone putting in so much effort, the onus was on us to do well," stated Preeti expressing gratitude.
All the 18 members in this triumphant Indian Junior Women's Team are part of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) National Centres of Excellence (NCOE). The group is selected into the program basis their performance in Khelo India Youth Games as well as the Hockey India Junior National Championships.
"Most of us in the team come from difficult backgrounds and truly what we get in SAI, Bengaluru as trainees of TOPS NCOE is better than what we could have got back home – be it nutrition, state-of-the-art infrastructure, world class coaching and a great atmosphere to train and compete with our peers for a place in the team. We believe our result in Junior Asia Cup would not have been possible if not for this kind of scientific support system to train," expressed Vice Captain Deepika.
Urging hockey fans to support her team in their quest to finish on the podium in the forthcoming FIH Junior Women's World Cup in Santiago, Chile, a confident Deepika said, "We hope Indian hockey fans will continue to support us in our endeavour to do well in the FIH Junior World Cup. This win at the Junior Asia Cup has fueled our determination to win a medal at the Junior World Cup."