India's Gurjit Kaur in action during the FIH Women's Series Finals in Hiroshima, Japan.. Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, June 25 : The Indian women's hockey team returned home to a rousing welcome on Monday after remaining unbeaten throughout their triumphant campaign at the FIH Women's Series Finals in Hiroshima, scoring 29 goals and conceding just four.

The women's team recorded convincing victories over Chile, beating them 4-2 in the semifinal, before downing hosts and reigning Asian Games champions Japan 3-1 in the final.

Of the total 29 goals India scored, 11 were netted by drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur, who played a significant role in helping India not only win the championship, but also seal a berth for the Olympic qualifiers for 2020 Tokyo Games.

Kaur found the back of the net 10 times through her drag-flicks while one was scored from the penalty spot.

Talking to IANS, the 23-year-old said that she mastered the art of drag-flicking after making the senior national squad as the team needed a skilled drag-flicker.

"I was selected for the junior team but my first tour was with the senior side. I didn't know much about drag-flicking at that time, but I tried to gain knowledge about it as our team needed an experienced drag-flicker. I feel there is more to be learnt... I also have to work on my speed," Kaur said.

Kaur trained under renowned Dutch coach Toon Siepman, whose wards include some greats like Maartje Paumen, Sohail Abbas, Bram Lomans and Mink van der Weerden. Siepman helped Kaur improve her position.

Speakin on her coach, Kaur said: "Toon was a great drag-flicker during his time. I used to make minor errors which I wasn't aware of and it was he (Toon) who helped me recognise my mistakes. He told me how to use my first foot, what could be the movement and how to use my hands swiftly so that the ball travels faster towards the net. He helped me improve a lot."
Kaur also wants to impart her skills to the junior girls. "I am making the junior ones learn it (drag-flicking) better. I enjoy teaching them the skills," she said.

Most of the teams at the FIH Women's Series Finals were lower-ranked when compared to India, but Kaur felt it was not because of their rankings that her team comfortably won the tournament.

"We take all the team as same irrespective of their rankings, as any team which participates in an international event gives their best on the turf. We won the tournament because of the hard labour we put in. Had we taken them (opponents) lightly, may be we could have lost due to over-confidence," she asserted.

Kaur, however, said the mission was far from over as now their sole focus was on the Olympic qualifiers.

"We have just completed one mission and the next one is on cards. We will face many strong teams in the qualifiers and will try to deliver our best once again. Our team is ready for the major challenge," she said.

The Indian women's team will return to the national coaching camp at the SAI facility in Bengaluru on July 15 to prepare for the Olympic test event in Japan, while the goalkeepers will return on July 8 for a special week-long camp before their compatriots join them for the national camp.

(Gaurav Singh can be contacted at gaurav.s@ians.in)

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