Anurita Saini, winner of 1982 Asiad hockey gold, dies
Former Indian women’s hockey player Anurita Saini, who died earlier this week after a brief illness, was a member of the historic Asiad gold-medal winning team of 1982. She was diagnosed with jaundice and was admitted to Central Railway Hospital in New Delhi last month. She was 60.
Saini, during her playing days, was well regarded for her feisty, never-say-die attitude. She began her career in Lucknow, at the KD Singh Stadium.
“She used to be funny as well as supportive to everyone off the field, but never compromised with her game,” said Prem Maya, who captained the Indian team and was Saini’s hostel-mate at Lucknow. “Her approach to the game was special. It was something to learn from for the rest of the girls.”
From an army family in Faizabad, Saini played as a right-half, and was known for both her tackling and passing prowess.
“Her stick-work at the 1982 Asian Games was a treat to watch as she was always prompt to feed the ball to the striker,” said Maya. “Even when Anurita lost both her parents within a week in 1981, she never lost her confidence and kept fighting the odds. This fighting attitude of hers made her strong.”
Women’s hockey made its debut at the 1982 Asiad, and the Indian women’s team has never again won gold at that stage. The closest they’ve come was in 2018, when they lost the final for a silver.
Besides representing India at the 1982 Asian Games, Saini played at the 1983 Kuala Lumpur World Cup and later became assistant coach and manager of the women’s team from 2002 to 2006.