Sports

Rani Rampal: A humble village girl’s crowning glory

YB Sarangi Kolkata | Updated on August 03, 2021

 

The Indian women’s hockey team, which upset a higher-ranked Australia to ensure its maiden semifinal appearance in the Olympics, won billions of hearts for its united effort under pressure in the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday.

If coach Sjoerd Marijne guided the side tactically, its charismatic captain Rani Rampal inspired the girls with her able leadership.

Twenty-six-year-old Rani, who made her India debut at the age of 14 in the Olympic qualifier in Kazan, Russia, in 2008, has risen from her humble background to become an iconic figure in Indian hockey in her 13-year-old international career.

Despite belonging to Haryana’s Shahabad Markanda, one of the well-known nurseries of hockey in the country, it was never easy for Rani to take up the sport due to her family’s financial constraints. Her father worked as a cart-puller and it was difficult for the family to make both ends meet.

She, somehow, convinced her parents to get enrolled as a seven-year-old in the Shahabad Hockey Academy run by reputed coach Baldev Singh, also an exacting taskmaster. Rani put in hard yards as she honed her skills and fast-forwarded to play for the senior India team as a teenager.

Even as she lived her passion and emerged as one of the finest forwards in quick time, Rani played the dual role of playing for the country and supporting her family, including building a pucca house. A word of encouragement from 1980 Olympic gold medallist and former women’s team coach MK Kaushik kept her morale high.

Many a time, she would struggle for support on the field but never gave up taking responsibilities upfront. She has gone on to play in all big competitions, including two World Cups and as many Olympics, and has won a gold medal in the 2017 Asia Cup and a silver in the 2018 Asian Games. She was adjudged the best young player of the 2010 World Cup.

The striking aspect of Rani’s game is that she can score goals under pressure. The best example of this was her winning goal against the US in the Olympic qualifier in Bhubaneswar in 2019 to earn the country a place in the Tokyo Olympics.

The most capped player in the Indian side, Rani — who wears a pendant featuring two hockey sticks and a ball — leads by example. She has already contributed to the team’s cause in the Tokyo Olympics and will be keen to corner bigger glory. With age on her side, Rani can serve the country with distinction for a few more years.

Indian players celebrate their victory against Australia after the women’s field hockey quarter-final match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, in Tokyo, on Monday. India won 1-0, thus entering the women’s hockey Olympic semi-finals for the first time.   -  PTI

 

Published on August 02, 2021

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