Grit and Determination: Rani Rampal, Indian Women Hockey Team Captain
Indian Women Hockey team captain Rani Rampal : "I wanted an escape from my life; from the electricity shortages, to the mosquitoes buzzing in our ear when we slept, from barely having two square meals to seeing our home getting flooded when it rained. My parents tried their best, but there was only so much they could do–Papa was a cart puller and Maa worked as a maid."
Rani was born on 4 December 1994 in Shahabad Markanda in the Kurukshetra district of Haryana. She was registered in the town's team by the age of 6. At the age of 15, she was the youngest player in the national team which participated in the 2010 World Cup.
There was a hockey academy (Shahabad Hockey Academy) near her home, she used to spend hours watching players practicing.
Her father used to earn Rs. 80 a day and couldn't afford to buy a hockey stick. Initially her abilities were questioned because she was malnourished but later on she demonstrated her potential to her coach.
Initially her family didn't support the idea of her playing hockey. They used to say, 'girls only do work of home' (Ladkiya ghar ka kaam hi karti hai) and we cannot permit you to wear skirt and play (Hum tumhe skirt pehen kar khelne nahi denge).
After pleading to her orthodox parents to let her play hockey, she began training at a local academy aged six. Once she made it to the national side, it all started paying off.
- She was adjudged 'Young Player of the Tournament' after emerging as the highest scorer in FIH Women's Champions Challenge II in 2009 and then was a part of the team that bagged a silver medal at the 2009 Asia Cup.
- The striker was named 'Young Player of the Tournament' at the 2010 World Cup and at the 2013 Junior World Cup, and then helped the team clinch a bronze at the 2014 Asian Games before she broke out of her teens.
- At Rio 2016, where the Indian women's team made a long overdue return to the Olympic arena, Rani immediately announced herself by scoring twice in the opening match against Japan.
- Rani played in all five of India's group games at the Olympics and her growing influence saw her named captain of the national team soon after their return from Rio 2016.
- Under her leadership, the team earned a silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games, reached the quarter-final at the 2018 World Cup and finished fourth at the Commonwealth Games in the same year.
- She was in inspired form in the year 2019 as well, guiding her team to the Tokyo Games.
Rani has won the - Highest Sporting Honour of India, Rajiv Gandhi Khel RatnaRajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (2020) and the - fourth Highest Indian National Honour, Padma Shri (2020).