Returning to Hockey After a Long Gap, Competing in Major Tournaments Extremely Positive Experience: Sonika

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Participating in the World Cup and Commonwealth Games against all the top teams in the World within a month or so is a learning experience for a player returning to the game after a break.

Doing well in such mega events held close to each other has given Indian women’s hockey team midfielder Sonika the confidence that she can take on anyone in the world. The young midfielder was part of the World Cup team and also started all six games in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham as the Indian team won a bronze medal, their first medal since 2006.

Sonika, who played integral roles in the FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup 2022 in Spain and Netherlands and Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham, spoke about her experiences of competing in major tournaments for the first time.

Sonika, who had taken a break from the sport in 2020 due to personal reasons, made a solid comeback to the Indian Team in March 2022, as and when included in the squad for the FIH Women’s Pro League 2021/22.

On the back of her consistent performances, Sonika made it to the Indian squad for the FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup 2022, where she started in all six games. At the Commonwealth Games 2022, Sonika was a key force in the midfield.

“Returning to hockey after a long gap, and then competing for the first time in major tournaments was an extremely positive experience for me. I always had faith in the team and I knew we have the potential to perform well. But on a personal level, competing in these matches gave me a boost of confidence to face every challenge in front of me,” Sonika was quoted as saying by Hockey India in a release on Saturday.

Speaking on how Indian hockey has evolved over the past couple of years, Sonika emphasised how they have become more dominant in the attack.

“The Indian Women’s Hockey Team has improved a lot over the past couple of years. We, as a team, have started playing solid attacking hockey. We are continuously penetrating inside the circle and the opponents are always wary of the threat we possess inside the circle.”

“We went with similar strategies and finished with a medal for India at the Commonwealth Games 2022, so it was a matter of immense pride and happiness for our team,” Sonika said.

The dynamic midfielder also went on to praise chief coach Janneke Schopman for helping her remain fit after she made a comeback to the team.

“Everyone supported me after I returned to the team. They gave me confidence and kept giving me opportunities. Coach Janneke Schopman kept motivating me and helped me emotionally. She continuously kept telling me that I am a good player. I feel as a coach, she has a lot of understanding of how to take care of the players on and off the field. It really helped me a lot,” Sonika said.

Speaking about her performance at the Commonwealth Games, Sonika expressed satisfaction but added that she wishes to improve upon certain areas in the coming months.

“I was happy with my performance at the Commonwealth Games, but there are still some areas I want to improve upon. I spoke with all the experienced members of the team who constantly keep sharing their tips and suggestions, which I find quite helpful. I want to also improve upon my game in the defence,” Sonika said.

“With Asian Games next year, I am looking forward to the upcoming competitions and to learn from the same. Our target is to ensure a podium finish at the Asian Games and to ensure an Olympic qualification,” she signed off.

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