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Turbulent route to Tokyo Olympics for India (9/5/2018)
--Errol D’Cruz
After failing to book a direct flight to the Tokyo Olympics, India's men's and women's teams will now have to take the turbulent route to the Japanese capital in 2020.

It would entail two steps: Finishing among the top two in one of three 8-nation tournaments of the Hockey Series finals. This would gain India a berth in the Olympic Qualifying event comprising two back-to-back matches with another nation. There will 12 nations taking part in the qualifying event and will be paired based on rankings. The nation with a higher ranking will host the two-match series with the team that scores more goals on aggregate qualifying for the Olympics.

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Four nations from the inaugural 9-nation Hockey Pro League set to be played from January to June book berths for the Olympic Qualifying event with another six from the new Hockey Series Finals in May and June. Joining them will be two highest ranked nations not having qualified via the continental championships, Hockey Pro League and Hockey Series.

Japan, by winning titles at the Jakarta Asian Games have already qualified as hosts and winning the gold medal has created a vacant spot. At the time of writing it is not clear how this would be filled but one expects two more nations with favourable rankings to be granted spots in the Olympic qualifying event.

The rankings would be taken to account after the completion of all continental championships next year.

After pulling out of the inaugural Hockey Pro League, India must hope for two things: Finish among the top two of one of three 8-Nation Hockey Series tournaments. After that, win their two-match series against another nation in the Olympic qualifying event.

If India fail to book a berth in the Olympic qualifiers via the Hockey Series, they must then hope for a high enough ranking to push them through to the qualifying event as one of two nations enjoying the privilege.

The Hockey Series Finals comprise 24 nations split into three 8-Nation tournaments. Nine top ranked nations from those that haven't already qualified as continental champions will join 15 lower ranked nations coming through earlier rounds of the global series.

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