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Hockey Olympic Qualifiers: Defender Udita happy with her purple patch and the chance to convert PCs

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Hockey Olympic Qualifiers: Defender Udita happy with her purple patch and the chance to convert PCs

Ranchi, Jan 17 (Ajit Weekly News) A goal on her birthday and two in her 100th International match, the Indian team’s defender Udita Duhan is going through a purple patch and the 25-year-old said she would love to continue her scoring spree in the semifinal against Germany in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers on Thursday.

In 97 starts before the event in Ranchi, Udita had scored only eight goals. In three matches since, she has been successful thrice, becoming the darling of the crown that had packed the Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh Astro-Turf Hockey Stadium here.

India’s twin wins against New Zealand and Italy in the Hockey Olympic Qualifiers will always be close to Udita’s heart as she helped the team win both the matches.

On Tuesday, after scoring a brace of goals against Italy, the 25-year-old said she was happy to have contributed to India’s victories that helped the team qualify for the semifinals.

“These two matches will be very memorable for me but more important for me is not we won both the matches<, ” said Udita after the match.

Udita, who came in as a substitute in the opening match, was given the chance to take a penalty corner in the match against New Zealand and converted it. On Tuesday, she scored a double in India’s 5-1 thrashing of Italy that set up a semifinal with World No.5 Germany.

“It feels nice to have contributed to the team’s victory. I am happy that I managed to score a goal on my birthday and am now in my 100th match. It feels nice to score goals, it seems like I am having a good time,” the defender from Haryana said after Tuesday’s match.

The 25-year-old who hails from Bhiwani’s Nangal village in Hisar district of Haryana, said that she had taken penalty corners earlier also but with players like Deep Grace, Vandana Karatiya and Gurjit Kaur in the team, there were enough drag flickers and hitters and therefore she was not pressed into action.

“Earlier, the team had many drag flickers, Gurjit was there, and Deep Grace was there, so I was not needed. With both of them not in the team, there was an opportunity for me,” said Udita, who had started as a handball player following in the footsteps of her father and then shifted to hockey because of a lack of proper coaching.

“We usually analyse how the defenders move while saving the penalty corner, and then a call is taken about who will attempt. In the case of Italy, their pattern of defending suited my slap shots,” she added.

Coach Janneka Schopman said Udita has a good slap shot and can place it perfectly in the corner. “Udita just has to slap. But she’s very dangerous so I’m really happy. Look, she has a good mindset and she also executes the slap well, and so it’s going well. I’m happy with that,” said the coach.

Udita, who hails from Haryana, made her debut in 2017 and has played a significant role in the team that won the silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and was also a part of the squad that finished second in the 2018 Asian Champions Trophy at Donghae, Korea.

Udita represented India at the 2018 Women’s Hockey World Cup in London where India finished in eighth place.

The speedy defender was also a part of the Indian team that finished fourth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and also represented the country in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, the 2022 Women’s Hockey Asia Cup and the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, in which India won a bronze medal.

Udita had nearly quit the game in 2015 after she lost her father. However, her mother insisted that Udita play the game and the defender did that, fulfilling her late father’s dream of representing India.

In Ranchi, she has further enhanced her reputation with good performances both in defence and in penalty corner conversion. With Deep Grace Ekka looking inclined to retire soon, Udita looks primed for an enhanced role in the team and if she continues to do her bit, will definitely play many, many more matches for the country.

–Ajit Weekly News

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News Credits – I A N S

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