FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers 2024: India Forward Vandana Katariya Ruled Out With Cheekbone Fracture

Baljeet Kaur has been named as Vandana Katariya's replacement in the Indian women's hockey team. The Savita Punia-led side will begin its FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers 2024 campaign on January 13 against the United States

File image of India women's team hockey player Vandana Katariya.

Experienced Indian women's hockey forward Vandana Katariya was on Wednesday ruled out of their Olympic qualifiers in Ranchi, dealing a big setback to the team for the January 13-19 tournament. (Hockey News)
Vandana, who was named the vice-captain, suffered a cheekbone fracture during training. Youngster Baljeet Kaur was named her replacement.

Nikki Pradhan, the first women's hockey player from Jharkhand to represent India in the Olympic Games in 2016, will now be the vice-captain of the team.

"It’s unfortunate that Vandana won’t be part of the tournament. She sustained a fracture in her cheekbone during a training session, and she has been advised to rest," chief coach Janneke Schopman said. 

"While we will miss the experience of Vandana, Baljeet Kaur who has been doing well for the team will step in for her senior compatriot and Nikki, also a very experienced player for India, will shoulder the responsibility of vice captain," she said after the Indian team arrived here for the tournament.

The Indian team, led by seasoned goalkeeper Savita Punia, will begin their campaign on January 13 against the United States, a team they fought against in 2019 for a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.

Having failed to book a direct Olympics berth at the Hangzhou Asian Games last year, the Indian team is looking for the 2024 Paris Games through the qualifying tournament here.

The top three teams from the tournament will qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. 

“We are excited to be back in Ranchi for the all-important FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers 2024. Last time we were here for the Women’s Asian Champions Trophy, the home crowd supported us a lot and we thoroughly enjoyed playing here," Savita said. 

"We are looking forward to starting our campaign and interestingly our first match is against the USA with whom we played the previous Olympic Qualifiers. I am sure it will be an exciting opening match and we look forward to a good start to our campaign.”  

The Indian team faces New Zealand on January 14 in its second Pool B match, before taking on Italy on January 16. The knockout matches will be held on January 18 and 19 respectively. 

The other teams in the fray include Olympic silver medallists Germany, former Asian Games champions Japan, Chile and the Czech Republic in Pool A.