Some criticised for not doing chores, others moulded by the heat of farms. Living up to a brother who represented the nation, rejoicing a sister who bought a stick with daily wages. Playing #hockey to escape an alcoholic father and to vindicate a father who fought societal norms.
From cradles of the sport to a Naxal stronghold. These are the larger-than-life back-stories of the Indian hockey’s giant-killers:
#Tokyo2020 #Hockey
#RaniRampal (26, Forward) Haryana:
Rani has been playing international hockey for almost half her life, a journey that began with her playing with a broken hockey stick while wearing a salwar-kameez. She made her debut at the age of 14. Now 26, she is the key player of the team.
#NikkiPradhan (27, Defender) Jharkhand: Riddled with financial troubles, her elder sister, who also played hockey, had worked as a labourer in order to purchase a #hockey stick. She got her first pair of hockey shoes and stick when she moved to an academy in Ranchi in 2006.
#NehaGoyal (24, Midfielder) Sonipat, Haryana: For a teenaged Neha, hockey was an escape that came with two meals. This kept her away from her alcoholic father who would abuse her mother.
#NishaWarsi (26, Midfielder) Haryana: A late-bloomer, she only made her international debut 2 years ago. She took up the sport since there was not much equipment required, and was keenly supported by her father who worked as a tailor.
#SavitaPunia (31, Goalkeeper) Haryana: There was a time she dreaded being the goalkeeper because she’d have to lug the heavy equipment across state transport buses, and wear it during the summer. Read more:
#DeepGraceEkka (27, Defender) Odisha: Ekka comes from a family of hockey enthusiasts; her older brother Dinesh is a former India goalkeeper. With over 200 caps, she’s now playing at her second #Olympics.
Lalremsiami (21, Forward), Mizoram: One of the finest forwards in the team, Siami, as she is called by her teammates, is central to the idea of playing high-tempo #hockey. #siami
#SalimaTete (19, Midfielder) Jharkhand: Salima Tete’s hockey journey began the same way most people in India fall in love with sports – in a dusty maidan where the stones needed to be removed and the temporary goalposts had to be constructed. #Hockey
#SushilaChanu (29, Midfielder) Manipur: One of the senior-most players in the team, she has been one of India’s most influential players in the last decade alongside Rani Rampal. She was instrumental in shutting out the Australians in the quarter-finals. #Tokyo2020
#UditaDuhan (23, Defender) Haryana: On her mother’s advice she decided to try her hand at hockey, and her speed caught everybody’s attention. In 2016 she was named captain of the team that won bronze at the U-18 Asian Cup. #Hockey #Tokyo2020
#NavneetKaur (25, forward) Haryana: She is one of eight players in the team who also competed at the Rio Olympics. She has been one of India’s most consistent forwards and has been a part of several path-breaking performances, starting with the 2013 Junior World Cup bronze medal.
#VandanaKatariya (26, Forward)Uttar Pradesh:
To seal a quarterfinal spot, India had to beat South Africa to stand a chance. In stepped Vandana Katariya, three times, becoming the only Indian woman to score an Olympic hat-trick.
#SharmilaDevi (19, Forward) Haryana: The teenager made her international debut in Tokyo at the Olympic Test Event in 2019. She was also on the scoresheet when India beat the United States 6-5 on aggregate to secure qualification. #Tokyo2020 #Hockey
#GurjitKaur (25, Defender),Punjab: The defender has been chipping in with crucial goals throughout her international career, scoring eight at the Asia Cup triumph in 2017, and was the top scorer when India won the 2019 FIH Women’s Series Final.
#NavjotKaur (26, Midfielder) Haryana: A midfielder on paper, her ability to poach goals is what saw her break into the senior team in 2012. Since then, she has gone on to win bronze and silver medals at the Asian Games in 2014 and 2018 respectively.
#MonikaMalik (27, Midfielder) Sonipat, Haryana: Her father Takdeer Singh Malik, an ASI with the Chandigarh Police, had a liking towards wrestling, but Monika asserted that he never forced the sport on her once she decided to follow the hockey route.
HERSTORY: The 16 who scripted Indian women’s #hockey history. Take a look
@mihirsv @shahidthejudge
With her unerring ability to be at the right place at the right time, #RaniRampal has been India’s saviour on many occasions.
She was in and out of the national structure before finally securing a spot in the team in 2015, just in time for Rio, where she became the first player from her state to play at the Olympics.
Warsi broke into the Indian team in 2018, and since then she’s been a mainstay.
#SavitaPunia was encouraged to play hockey by her grandfather, but it wasn’t till her father spent a huge sum of money on a new kit that she started to take the game seriously.
Ekka comes from a family of hockey enthusiasts
She worked on the family’s farm, earned money and bought a hockey stick for herself.
She followed in her father’s footsteps by playing handball. #Hockey was never in the picture until the handball coach at her school suddenly stopped coming for practice.
The forward from Haryana considers Australian great Jamie Dwyer as her hero and on Monday, she put up a dazzling performance to defeat her idol’s national team.
Growing up in Haridwar, locals dissuaded her family from allowing her to play sports instead of focusing on household chores.
A self-proclaimed ‘naughty child,’ she took up the sport after accompanying her grandfather, a former national level player, to a local ground.
She was eight when her father, a mechanic who wanted at least one of his children in sports, insisted she take up hockey.

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