The 32-year-old Savita won 37.6 points in the final tally in the voting conducted for the FIH Hockey Stars Awards, comfortably beating Argentina’s Belen Succi by over 10 points to win the honour for the second-straight year.
The goalkeeper took over the captaincy of the Indian hockey team from Rani Rampal and was instrumental in the team winning bronze at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. She starred in the penalty shootout victory over New Zealand in the bronze playoff to seal the first CWG medal in 16 years for the Indian women’s hockey team.
Savita also helped the team finish third in the women’s FIH Pro League 2021-22, pulling off 57 saves in the 14 games she played, in India’s debut campaign.
In an interview with IANS at the sidelines of an awards distribution event in the national capital, the star hockey player spoke about the team’s upcoming goal, love and support shown by fans, areas to work on and so on. Excerpts:
Q: In recent years, the love and support for hockey especially for women players have grown significantly. How do you see it?
A: The support, which we have got after the Tokyo Olympic Games is heartwarming. It has motivated our team to do well and bring more laurels for the country.
Q: The Indian women’s hockey team produced courageous performances at the last Olympics and CWG 2022. According to you, what needs to be done to move one level ahead?
A: Improvement is a constant process, even the best teams in the world keep on working in a few areas. As a team, we also need to improve in certain areas. At the Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2022, we lacked a bit in the penalty corner attack as well as in defence. So, we need to finetune that before the Asian Games, where we need to be at our best to compete against the strong teams.
Q: What’s the next goal of the team?
A: Our next goal is to win the gold at Asian Games, which will give us direct qualification for the Paris Olympics.
Q: You have been recently named Goalkeeper of the Year by FIH and the fans of Indian hockey fans have also given you a name — “Great Wall of India”. So, how do you feel about these things?
A: Obviously the awards, love and appreciation by fans always bring joy. But I feel, it also brings the responsibility on us to maintain our good performances and improve with each passing game.
Q: What is your message for the budding women hockey players?
A: The future of women’s hockey is bright and young girls should set a yearly goal for themselves. They need to focus on gradual steps — getting to national camps and then to the national team. Young girls need to have the belief that they can achieve whatever they want with their hard work.
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