Christchurch: Former India hockey player Nazleen Madraswala feels the women's team's stunning entry into the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics showed that "nothing separates" the side from the best in the world.
A day after the Indian men's team ended a 49-year drought to make the Olympic semifinals, the women's side scripted history by also entering the last-four, ousting three-time champions Australia by a solitary goal here.
"To be honest, it is just sinking in. It is absolutely a historic day for India, because for me, I think we've come a long way from the last Olympics where we were nowhere in the picture to create this absolutely fabulous performance," the 1982 Asian Games gold medallist told 'sportsaction.in' in a talk show titled 'India Hope at Tokyo'.
"I think it is a very, very special day. And I'm really proud to be a hockey player. They came into today's game as the underdogs knowing that it was a situation where it was a do-or-die.
"India has proved itself that we can compete with the best in the world. There is nothing that separates us from the best in the world," Nazleen, who was part of the side that finished fourth at the 1980 Games, added.
In Wednesday's semifinal, the Rani-led side will take on Argentina, a team that had lost to Australia, in its bid to recreate history.
Asked if the Indian women would be at an advantage psychologically, she said: "I think they need to persevere. They need to carry on with the same frame of mind. They need to be positive, and they need to take it to the opposition. The gold medal is two games away."
India's best performance in the Olympics came way back in the 1980 Moscow Games where they had finished fourth out of six teams.
Nazleen, who represented India at the Olympics at an age of 18, was known as the 'Lightning Left Winger' for her dashing speed from the left flank while gripping the stick in her left hand.
"Let's be honest about it. There were only six there. You know, all the teams of the world were not represented. Yes, it was huge, it was the Olympics. We can't take anything away from that," Nazleen said.
"But it was not the same as what these girls have fought through. So while I take great pride in having that opportunity to have been at the Olympic Games, I think we've come a long way," the former player, who mentors youngster in New Zealand now, said.