SHE MADE HER senior India debut in 2009 at the age of 14. Today, Rani Rampal is a veteran with over 200 international appearances. The star skipper from Haryana is still basking in her team’s 3-1 victory over Japan at the FIH Women’s Series Finals at Hiroshima in June. The team is heading to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics qualifiers in the second week of August.
Q/How did you get interested in hockey?
A/I started playing at the age of six. Back then, all I knew was that if you play hockey, you will get a job. I wanted to uplift the condition of my family and I knew that hockey would help me do that. We used to live in a shanty and my father used to work as a cart-puller. My parents could not even afford to buy milk daily, forget about paying for my coaching. But I was determined to pursue it. After a lot of begging, they gave me the nod and the rest, as they say, is history.
Q/What were some of the challenges that you faced?
A/The biggest challenge I faced was opposition from my neighbours and relatives. They kept telling my parents that I would spoil the name of the family. But now they are proud of me. They even send their daughters for hockey training. Another challenge was the money. My father struggled a lot to fund my training, but he never stopped me from playing hockey. In 2007, I had a major back injury which stopped me from playing for about a year. I was bedridden. Doctors and trainers told me that it might not be possible for me to get back on the field. I weighed only 36kg then and I was not fit to play. I thought this was the end of my career and that all the sacrifices of my parents had been in vain. But I refused to give up and endured.
Q/What is your vision for the national team?
A/I want my team to be number one in the world. I keep emphasising on hard work, training and discipline. Training is very important, not just for playing well on the field but also for recovering from injuries. I try to be an example to my teammates rather than flooding them with advice. I want us to win gold at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.