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Inspiration

Captain Of Indian Hockey Team, Rani Rampal Says Marriage Can Wait Because She Wants To Do This First

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I would be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised when, back in school, I learnt that our national game is field hockey and not cricket. Don’t get me wrong, for a country that worships cricket and cricketers, I couldn’t think of any other sport for the honour. It was when I saw Chak De India that I realised what a great sport it was but still couldn’t figure why the hockey players, especially our women in sports, do not get the stardom and spotlight they deserve.

It is because of this very reason why I was elated when the Captain of India’s women hockey team, Rani Rampal was awarded the most prestigious sports award of the country, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, last week. She is the first female hockey player, and third in the history to have been honoured for her remarkable achievements in the sport. From being the youngest player in the national team in 2010 World Cup at the age of 15 to being honored with Padma Shri and now the Khel Ratna, Rampal has come a long way.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, Rampal mentioned how the pressure of getting married builds once a sportswoman accomplishes a feat. Actually, not just a woman in sports, but any successful woman over 25 is expected to ‘settle down’ according to predetermined norms of the society. But Rani would rather take a hard pass on that one. She told HT, “Once you represent India or get a job, it’s believed that it’s time for the athlete to tie the knot.” “Relatives continuously tell your parents and pressure builds up. Parents start believing in these things. But things have changed a lot over the years and parents have now started to understand,” she added.

She has bigger dreams for her team and the nation. She wants her team to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics which was supposed to be held this year but given the current global crisis, is postponed to next year. She told Deccan Herald, “Target is to reach the quarterfinals. Once we reach the quarterfinals it’s anybody’s game after that. If we do well at the Olympics, it’ll give the sport a major fillip.”

Rampal has been playing for the national team since she was 14 and has participated in 212 international matches in a career spanning 11 years. But it hasn’t exactly been an easy road for her. She comes from a humble background from the state of Haryana where her father was a cart puller and the family has struggled to manage two meals a day. But that didn’t stop Rampal was dreaming. She developed an interest in hockey at an early age and once she realised she was good at it, she started working hard to make her name in the sport and represent India. It was her super supportive father who made sure she pursues her dream, despite the financial limitations.

She told DH, “Being a girl, especially from modest backgrounds and small towns, it’s not easy. But he really went out of his way to ensure my hockey dream didn’t suffer. He always motivated me to take up sports despite societal pressure. I thank Hockey India also for believing in me. I was just a 14-year-old playing hockey as an escape from the daily struggles. They saw the talent in me, picked me and turned me into this final product. I owe them also a lot.”

Her parents have once again gone against the societal pressure and supported her decision to put off marriage to focus on the Tokyo Olympics which is just incredible. She said, “I made my parents understand that my ultimate target is not marriage. What I can achieve now as a player, I can’t achieve it later. They understood.” What every girl really needs to achieve her dreams is supporting and progressive parents like her’s.

She is now one of the finest hockey players we have in the country who strives to do more everyday. She says getting the highest sporting honour has only motivated her to accomplish more and make India proud. Talking about the preparation for the Tokyo Olympics, the young striker said, “We haven’t played hockey for 4-5 months now because of coronavirus, so the support staff in working very hard to help us get into good shape. The main target is to do well at the Olympics. Last time (2016) we qualified for the first time (second time actually), so there were jitters in the camp. Now we have qualified for the [sic] again and looking forward to it with great hope.”

Also Read: Lalremsiami, Indian Women’s Hockey Team’s Striker, Has Been Named 2019 FIH Women’s Rising Star of Year. Hers Is A Story Of Grit And Determination

Rani Rampal reminds me of Komal in Chak De India. She was also a young hockey player from Haryana who was a fireball on the field. Coming from such a humble background, the accolades and achievement she has accomplished at 25 is commendable. And, she has no plans to stop anytime soon. She has putt off marriage plans to smash it in the Olympics and that says a lot about her as a player, nay the captain of the hockey team. She says, “I’m just lucky that I was able to play for the country, win medals and captain the team. If my journey motivates girls from hinterlands to take up the sport, then nothing like it.” We agree; she is truly an inspiration for all the young girls aspiring to make a name in the field of sports.

Also Read: Rani Rampal Became The First Hockey Player To Win The World Games Athlete Of The Year Award And We’re So Proud

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