Indian women’s hockey team Tales of valour
The Indian women’s hockey team may not have won a medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games, but their exploits on and off the field are made of extraordinary stuff and won the hearts of all. The sheer determination of these young girls in overcoming extreme odds as they grew up is something to emulate. If anything, this team’s players have shown what they have done for women’s empowerment in this country. We present small insights into every player’s life.
Rani Rampal (Forward and captain)
Early life : Born on December 4, 1994 in the Kurukshetra District of Haryana. Her father worked as cart-puller, earning Rs 80 a day, mother used to do house chores and earn. She was registered in the town’s team by the age of 6, started playing hockey in 2003 at age 9, with a broken hockey stick, trained at the Shahabad Hockey Academy under Dronacharya Award winner Baldev Singh.
Career : Junior Nationals in Gwalior and at Chandigarh School Nationals. Later into national squad. Was just 14 when she made her international debut. On December 26, 2020, became India captain. Realised her dream of building a house for her parents.
Achievements : Junior world cup bronze, two time Asian Games medallist.
Awards : Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (2020), Padma Shri (2020).
Savita Punia (Goalkeeper, vice-captain)
Early Life : Born on 11 July 1990 in Jodhkan Village of Sirsa District in Haryana. She was sent to the Sirsa district for better schooling. It was her grandfather Mahinder Singh who motivated her to take up hockey.
Career: Joined Sports Authority of India academy at Hisar. Was coached by Sunder Singh Kharab during her early years. Was initially not too interested in hockey, but everything changed when her father spent Rs 20,000 on her kit. She started to see the game in a new light and got serious. Today she is hailed as the “Wall of India”. 2008, first international tour vs The Netherlands and Germany. Senior international debut in 2011. Has made over 200 international appearances that includes Asian Games medals (2014, 2018) and Asia Cup gold in 2017.
Awards : Arjuna Award (2018); Baljit Singh Goalkeeper of the Year Award 2015.
Sushila Chanu (Midfielder)
Early life : the Ex-India captain was born on 25 February 1192 in Imphal, Manipur. Her father is a driver and her mother is a housewife. Her great grandfather, Pukhrambam Angancha was a successful polo player. Chanu is the second child of the family. Her interest increased after she accompanied her father to watch a football match during the 1999 National Games in Manipur.
Career : She made her International debut at the 2008 Women Hockey Junior Asia cup, held in Kuala Lumpur, where India won a bronze. Chanu rose to international attention when she led the Indian junior team to a bronze medal finish at the 2013 junior world Cup at Monchengladbach, Germany. Chanu made her senior international debut after the world cup win and played a clinical role in the team reaching the semi-finals of the 2014–15 Women’s FIH Hockey World League held at Antwerp, Belgium. Ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics, Chanu was named the captain of the national team. She led the team at the four-nation tournament in Australia that was held in May. She recovered from a knee injury to be abl to make the Tokyo squad.
Vandana Kataria (Forward)
Early life : Katariya was born on 15 April 1992, in Roshnabad, Haridwar, Uttar Pradesh (now in in Uttarakhand). Her father Nahar Singh works as a master technician in BHEL, Haridwar. She is one of the most improved players upfront for India.
Career : The youngster first made her junior international debut in 2006 before going on to make her senior international debut four years later. Katariya was picked in the Indian junior team in 2006 and she made it to the senior national team in 2010. She was a part of the team that won bronze at the 2013 Junior World Cup in Monchengladbach. Vedanta scored five goals as India won a bronze. She won her 100th cap while playing against Canada in 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. Katariya played her 200th match in the third of the five-match series in India’s tour of Spain in June 2018 ahead of the World Cup. Vandana became first Indian woman to score an Olympic hat-trick in hockey.
Nikki Pradhan (Defender)
Early life : Nikki Pradhan was born in Hesal village in tribal heartland Khunti, 60 km from Ranchi, Jharkhand, on 8 December 1993. Her father, Soma Pradhan, is a Bihar police constable, and her mother, Jitan Devi, a homemaker. Pradhan was the first female hockey player from Jharkhand who represented India in the Olympics. She started playing the game at a young age under the guidance of her childhood coach Dasrath Mahto. She enrolled in the Bariatu Girls’ Hockey Centre, which has produced former Indian captain Asunta Lakra, in Ranchi in 2005.
Career : Pradhan played for the first time for India in U-17 Asia Cup in Bangkok in 2011. She was also a part of the U-21 Women’s Hockey Team which won the silver medal in the Asia Cup, but had to stay out of action due to an injury until the beginning of 2015. She made her debut for the Senior Indian Team and was called into the senior camp in August 2015. She also participated in the 2012 Asia Cup in the under-21 category. She was later selected as a member of the squad of Indian Women’s Hockey team, which represented India in Rio Olympics in Brazil in 2016. The 27-year-old has won over 100 caps for India.
Neha Goyal (Midfielder)
Early life : Goyal hails from Sonepat in Haryana. She comes from a poor family and has two elder sisters. Her father was a alcohol addict and her mother was a daily wage earner in a cycle factory, earning Rs 2,000 a month making spokes. She and her family have struggled to take care of her basic requirements like shoes, hockey sticks, diet regime. More importantly, her alcoholic father was abusive, and she had be wary of that. She began training in an academy run by former India captain Pritam Rani Siwach. Goyal completed her schooling from Tika Ram Senior Secondary Girls School.
Career : Goyal made her debut in the senior Indian national team in 2014 and played her first match in Glasgow during the FIH Champions Challenge. She was part of the 18-member Indian team for the 2018 World Cup in London.
Sumrai Tete (Midfielder)
Early life : Born on November 15, 1979, she grew into one of the better players in the squad.
Career : One highlight of her career is being part of the team that won gold at the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games.
Award: Dhyan Chand Award, 2017.
Honours : She is the brand ambassador for hockey in her state Jharkhand. Chief Minister Raghubar Das also announced that she will be training the State level hockey players.
Monika Malik (Midfielder)
Monika Malik was born on November 5, 1993.
Career : She made her senior international debut in the 2013 Asian Champions Trophy. Has been anchoring Indian teams in various tournaments since. She is employed with Indian Railways. She has played in the the Rio Olympics, World Cup (2018); Asian Games (2014 & 2018); Asia Cup (2017); Hockey World League Round 3 (2015 & 2017); Commonwealth Games (2018); and Junior World Cup (2013).
Gurjit Kaur (Defender)
Early life : Gurjit Kaur was born on October 25, 1995, in the Miadi Kalan village in Amritsar. She was born into a farming family to parents Satnam Singh and Harjinder Kaur. She has one older sister, Pradeep Kaur. It was important to her parents to give her and her sister a quality education, so they elected to send their two daughters to a private school in Ajnala, over 13 km away, instead of the local government school in the village. Gurjit’s father Satnam Singh would fit his daughters onto his cycle and take them to school and wait all day until their school got over to ferry them back.
Since this was not a practical solution, her parents finally decided to send their two daughters to a boarding school over 70 km away in Kairon in the Tarn Taran district of Punjab in 2006. Kairon happened to be one of the oldest and most famous women’s hockey nurseries, and this is where the two sisters discovered their passion for the sport. Their excellence in hockey earned them a spot in the government wing of the school, granting them free education and meals, which came as a relief to the sisters’ cash-strapped parents.
Career : Gurjit got her first shot at playing for the country when she was called for the Senior National Camp in 2014, but it was only in 2017 that she became a permanent member of the Indian women’s hockey team. She then played in the Test series in Canada in March 2017, the Hockey World League Round 2 in April 2017 and the Hockey World League semifinals in July 2017.
Nisha Warsi (Defender)
Early life : She was born on July 9, 1995. She is the third daughter of Sohrab Ahmad, a tailor. The family could not afford the money for her training, but there was support from relatives, the same relatives who had jeered because Sohrab had a daughter. Things got worse when Sohrab had a paralytic stroke, making him quit work. Her mother, Mahroon, worked in a foam-manufacturing factory for a few years before Nisha landed a job with the Railways. They managed to purchase a 25 sq m house in West Ram Nagar colony of Sonepat after she got a job. Now Nisha is the only bread-earner of the family.
Career: She is a product of Commonwealth Games gold medallist Pritam Rani Siwach’s academy in Sonepat, Haryana.
Sharmila Devi (Striker)
Early Life : She was born on October 10, 2001 in Hisar, Haryana. Her father is a farmer and mother a housewife. She was always interested in playing hockey and was supported by her father in the same. She played in her village for a long time and then went to Ahmedabad to train. She has been trained at the Sonepat-based Pritam Siwach Hockey academy..
Career : In the year 2018, she got in the junior hockey team and since then it was all uphill for this young player. Sharmila made her senior debut at the Tokyo Test Event in 2019.
Udita Duhan (Defender)
Early Life : Born in Haryana, the 23-year-old is the daughter of Jasbir Duhan, an assistant sub-inspector. She picked up sports at an early age. Udita’s first foray into the world of sport was via handball. Udita’s father also used to play handball. In 2016, she was named the skipper of the junior team, soon after her father passed away after prolonged illness. Her mother stepped in and she did not let Udita’s dream shatter. She started playing hockey only six years ago.
Career : Under her captaincy, the Indian junior’s team won a bronze in the under-18 Asian cup. Her senior team debut was during the Indian team’s tour of New Zealand in 2017. She has played 32 matches for the India. At the Asian Games, in which India won silver, Udita had the honour of netting the tournament’s first goal.
Early life : Lalremsiami was born into a family of agriculturists in Kolasib, a town approximately 80 km from Aizawl, Mizoram. Her father, Lalthansanga Zote, is a farmer and mother, Lalzarmawii, a homemaker. Lalremsiami was selected to join a government hockey academy in Thenzawl, Serchhip when she was 11. In 2016, she joined the National Hockey Academy in New Delhi.
Career : Lalremsiami was included in the under-18 India side that played at the Asia Cup in 2016, before being drafted to the senior camp the following year by Baljit Singh Saini, then coach of the junior team. She represented the U-18 side at Asian Youth Olympic Games qualifier. She was included in the senior team that went on to win gold at the 2017 Asia Cup. She was included in the side that competed in the 2018 Asian Champions Trophy, winning the second place. Was given the tournament’s ‘U-21 rising star award’. Lalremsiami was included in the squad for the 2018 World Cup as India’s youngest player at 18.
Deep Grace Ekka (Defender)
Early life : Deep Grace Ekka was born on 3 June 1994 in a small village Lulkidhi in the Sundergarh district of Odisha. She is the daughter of Charles and Jayamani Ekka. She started playing hockey in school and was coached by Tej Kumar Xess (2005–06). During a round of selections at school, she was selected to join the SAI-SAG centre in September 2007 and started playing at the state level at the age of 13. She began to be coached by Lucela Ekka and Saroj Mohanty.
Career: At the age of 16, she played at the senior nationals in Sonepat. In 2011, she played at the National Games in Ranchi. She was also selected for the Junior National Camp and travelled to Bangkok for the Junior Asia Cup. She started as a defender, but her desire was to become a goalkeeper as her brother and she used to play sometimes, but her uncle who was her coach didn’t allow her to pursue or practise as a goalkeeper so having no choice she became defender. She doubles up as a drag flicker and was part of the team that won the 9th women’s Asia cup in Japan last year. International debut in the four-nation tournament in Argentina in 2011 in which India won bronze. Also helped India win bronze in the U-18 Girls’ Asia Cup in Bangkok in 2011. Also part of the Indian team that won the bronze in the Women’s Hockey Asia Cup in 2013. She was part of the senior Indian team that won the silver medal in the Women’s Asian Champions Trophy in 2013. Also a part of the Indian team to the Rio Olympics 2016.
Navneet Kaur (Forward)
Early life : She was born in Kurukshetra, Haryana.] Her father is a mechanic and her mother is a home-maker. She was trained for hockey in Baldev Singh’s academy in Shahbad.
Career : In one of her first tournaments at the U-19 level, she was the top-scorer. She has participated in more than a 100 international matches. In 2012, Kaur entered the International world of Hockey, playing against New Zealand. Before that she played in various Junior Leagues such as the Junior Asia Cup, International U-21 tournament in the Netherlands. She completed her 100th match pretty quickly. In the Asian World Cup, Navjot scored five goals, not including the penalty shootouts.
Navjot Kaur (Midfielder)
Early Life : She was born on July 17, 1975, in Kurukshetra, Haryana. Her father is a mechanic and her mother is a home-maker.
Career : She was trained for hockey at Baldev Singh’s academy in Shahbad. In one of her first tournaments at the U-19 level, she was the top-scorer. She has participated in more than a 100 international matches. In 2012, Kaur entered the International world of Hockey, playing against New Zealand after proving her talent in various Junior Leagues such as Junior Asia Cup, International U-21 tournament in the Netherlands, etc. Kaur belonged to the team that performed well at the Hockey World League semi-finals in 2015, which enabled India to enter the Rio Olympics. She also participated in the 17th Asian Games, the Rio Games and the 4th Women’s Asian Champions Trophy. She also played a role in India’s campaign at the Women’s Hockey World League Round 2 in Canada.