#Womenshockeyteam: Raring to go for more challenges

Indian women’s hockey team players, Rani Rampal, Sushila Chanu, Savita Punia, and coach Sjoerd Marijne, among others talk about being so close to the goal, and share the overwhelming love they are receiving from the country.
Indian women’s hockey team created history by reaching the semi finals of Olympics, and won the hearts of the country for their level of commitments and efforts. The team is now gearing up for upcoming tournaments such as Commonwealth Games, and more. (Photo: PTI)
Indian women’s hockey team created history by reaching the semi finals of Olympics, and won the hearts of the country for their level of commitments and efforts. The team is now gearing up for upcoming tournaments such as Commonwealth Games, and more. (Photo: PTI)
Published on Aug 13, 2021 11:24 AM IST
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By Anjuri Nayar Singh and Naina Arora, New Delhi

Indian women’s hockey team made a smashing entry into the semi finals of Olympics, for the first time ever, at Tokyo! They conquered nation’s hearts with their valiant performance, earned love and laurels, and now post their return, tell us how they are stronger, tougher, and raring to go!

Rani Rampal: Aisa lag raha hai hum bhi medal jeet ke aye hain

“This Olympics will be very special for us. Jo respect aur pyaar humein mila hai, maine kabhi nahi dekha. Aisa lag raha hai hum bhi medal jeet ke aye hai. Medallist aur hum mein kuchh farak nahi dikh raha. I really want to meet mummy-daddy, bahut time ho gaya unse mile huye. Main kuch leke nai aayi hun unke liye, but jaise mumma suit pehenti hain, I will buy that for her. Papa wears kurta pyjama, and he likes it when I buy it for him, so that is my plan when I go back home,” says the captain and forward player, from Shahabad Markanda in Haryana.

Remembering the struggle and intense training that the team endured, she says, “In our training, we have a system — red, green, orange. Green and orange is light and medium level training, and red is a killing session! Specially before Tokyo Olympics, we trained in 35 degrees in the afternoon at noon, wearing jackets. It’s not easy to do red sessions. You’re almost vomiting, and aapko lagta hai ki aap bhaag hi nahi paa rahe ho!”

Lalremsiami: Yeh humara end nai, shuruwat hai

Lalremsiami, the team’s forward striker from Mizoram, says although they lost a war, the battle is still to be won. “We were very close, so we felt very bad. But our team really fought hard. Sabne apni taraf se 100% diya. Yeh humara end nahi, humari shuruwaat hai aage ke liye,” she says.

Now, she is headed home soon, and plans to eat and spend time with her family. She adds, “Abhi mai ghar jaungi toh mai puri family ke saath bahut khaungi. My father is no more with us. I’ve brought a small teddy bear from Tokyo for my mother. Mummy was saying jaldi vapas aaja. Maine bola inti jaldi nai aa sakti, humare functions hain. Mummy bol rahi thi bahut sara khana bana ke rakhungi!”

Goalkeeper Savita Punia aka The Wall, says the team still hums to the song from the film, Chak De (2007). (Photo: Shivam Saxena/HT)
Goalkeeper Savita Punia aka The Wall, says the team still hums to the song from the film, Chak De (2007). (Photo: Shivam Saxena/HT)

Savita Punia: Chak De ke gaane abhi bhi team mein sune jaate hain

The Wall aka goal keeper Savita Punia, from Haryana, says the team still hums to the songs from the popular film Chak De! India (2007), which keeps them pepped up. “Usse kahin na kahin India mein motivation mila tha logon ko. Aur Chak De... ka gaane abhi bhi team mein sune jaate hain. Woh songs motivational songs hai,” shares Punia, who now wants to just sit beside her parents and have a cuppa in peace.

“April se humara camp tha. Ek bhi din ghar nahi gaye. Mere ghar mein wait karte hain ki main aaungi toh bahan ka khana aayega. Papa always told me dedication, hard work aur honesty ke saath kaam karo toh result zarur ayega. Middle class joint family mein sirf papa kaam karne wale the. Jo equipments aate the; mujhe aisa lagta tha mere liye kyun paisa kharch ho rahe hai. Yeh paisa kahi aur lag jaaye. Mujhe woh feel nahin karwate the par mai kabhi confidently nahin bol saki ki mujhe yeh shoes chahiye. Jab woh laake dete they, mai uska wait karti thi,” she recalls.

Always the one to put the team ahead, Punia adds: “Mujhe kaafi baar bola jata hai ki tumhe yeh nahi mil raha, woh nahi mil raha. Mere liye sirf meri teammates aur coaches hain; unko main khushi de paun aur mere parents ko proud feel karwa paun, is team ki performance mein mera bhi role hai.”

Indian women’s team hockey players, Udita Duhan , Sushila Chanu, Lalremsiami, and Navjot Kaur. (Photo: Shivam Saxena/HT)
Indian women’s team hockey players, Udita Duhan , Sushila Chanu, Lalremsiami, and Navjot Kaur. (Photo: Shivam Saxena/HT)

Sushila Chanu: Manipur ki ladki has a never-give- up attitude and junoon

Midfielder Sushila Chanu, a powerhouse from Imphal, feels thrilled about the recognition that her state has received, and is eagerly waiting to dig into the native dishes from her place, such as Eromba, when she heads back home. Sporting an Olympics ring tatoo on her arm, and an Olympic rings necklace around her neck, she says, “Just three years now, and more hard work! Manipur ki ladkiyan bahut hard working hain. They have a never-give-up attitude and junoon. I come from a middle class background, and bachpan se sports pasand tha. Ek din mere uncle ne bola hockey khelna shuru karo. Parents ka support bahut important hai kyuki by chance bachhe ko dusra game pasand hai aur humne kisi aur game mein daal diya toh na woh improve ho payega na aage ja payega. Starting mein Manipur diet achhi nahi thi, ki acha diet kha ke practise karoon; thoda facilities kum hain Manipur mein. Hum chahte hain ki Manipur mein academy khule aur diet and coaching facilities Manipur mein bhi mil jaayega toh achhe players nikal sakte hain,” she says hoping for an improvement on this front.

Udita Duhan: Covid time helped me to heal and work on my game

For many, Covid-19 presented challenges mentally and physically, but for defender Udita Duhan, it was the much needed time for retrospection and improving her game. “2018 ki injury ke baad mai kafi down chali gayi thi. Six months mere recovery mein chale gaye. But Covid chal raha tha, and that time helped me to heal and work on my game.... Ab ki bar pura India humare saath hai. Team mein junoon aa gaya hai aur aage achhe matches milenge. Pehli baar aisa feel hua ki India humare saath hai aur sabne bahut believe kiya hai hum pe. Yeh motivation bahut zarurai hai,” she says.

Navjot Kaur: We have faced the good and bad together

“Rani is nice, and humble aur sabke saath mix up hoke rehti hai,” says midfielder Navjot Kaur, from Haryana, who just like the others had been “hurt” because the team couldn’t win a medal, but confesses that their bonding is as thick as sisters. “Humari team fun bhi karti hain. Humne bad times aur wins saath mein deal kiye hain. Hum mein kaafi closeness hai. Hum ek dusre ki families ki baatein bhi karte hain. Vandana ke father ki death ho gayi thi, humne usko support kiya; she’s feeling better now... In the game, hum bahut close they, bahut zyada hurt hua after the match. Par desh khush hai humari performance se. Yeh humari starting hai toh hum aage bhi bahut achha karenge. Next year is important for us in Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the World Cup.”

Sharmila Devi is overwhelmed by coach Sjoerd’s support for the team. (Photo: Shivam Saxena/HT)
Sharmila Devi is overwhelmed by coach Sjoerd’s support for the team. (Photo: Shivam Saxena/HT)

Sharmila Devi: Coach Sjoerd has supported every girl

Sharmila Devi, a forward player from the team, feels overwhelmed at the thought that this was their coach, Sjoerd Marjine’s last stint with them. Teary eyed, Devi says, “Unke saath first goal se rahe hain. Dukh ho raha hai. Emotional toh honge hi kyuki woh chaar se humare saath hain. Time to time unhone humein kaafi motivate kiya hai. We’ve lost matches against teams, which we never felt we will. He still supported each one of the girls.”

Talk about family to cheer her up, and she adds, “I’ve got key rings for my family. Yeh Olympic ki pehchan hai. Aur kuchh tha nahi jo mai le sakti thi; wohi tha toh main sabhi ke leeye leke aayi hun.”

Indian women’s hockey team coach Sjoerd Marijne (Photo: Shivam Saxena/HT)
Indian women’s hockey team coach Sjoerd Marijne (Photo: Shivam Saxena/HT)

Sjoerd Marijne: We had a big dream

The “real coach” of the Indian hockey women’s team, as he called himself in a reply to actor Shah Rukh Khan on Twitter, says he is so proud of his team today. “I feel enormous pride. We had a big dream… Inspire of not winning the bronze medal, we achieved our goal. It’s always making small targets. If you reach it, you get the confidence. I take them outside their comfort zone. That’s a difficult process,” he says.

Talking about his tweet that went viral, he says, “It was a joke. It was nice of him (SRK) to react. I just did a post, I don’t tweet too much. That was all that was there. It went viral. I never experienced anything similar. My phone exploded. My daughters kept at it. They went like, ‘Daddy what’s going on!’ I went from 2,500 to 45,000 followers!”

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021