CHENNAI: The last few series played by the Indian women’s hockey side has seen many new faces pop up. And while performances have fluctuated, a few freshers have had the opportunity to seal their place in the squad. With the next 18 months set to be hectic, Reena Khokhar is looking to cash in.
Having made her debut in the series victory over Belarus, the 23-year-old has already seen the ups and downs of sport. That easy victory was followed by a crushing 0-5 loss to New Zealand. Reena believes Indians still have a lot of catching up to do to match the best teams.
“Winning against Belarus in my maiden series was a great experience. I finally got to play with some of the best women players from the country. But then, against New Zealand, we could never truly dominate. They were taller, stronger and faster. In modern hockey, those traits count a lot, and we need to figure out how to use our strengths to our advantage,” she told Express.
A call-up to the national side was a surprise, though she was part of camps before. “I’ve been part of the Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy in Bhopal for a while now, and after doing well in many national-level tournaments in different age categories, I attended quite a few camps. I knew my time would come, though I didn’t expect it to come so soon. Luckily, against Belarus, some key players were rested, and they had slots to fill. Someone must have been impressed to recommend me to the national coach (Sjoerd Marijne), and I’m thankful,” she noted.
One interesting aspect is that Reena is quite fluent in English, and attributes this to her interest in studies. “I feel that education is very important, and having a good academic background helps give a sportsperson security; a back-up option if I can say so. I never stopped studying even when I joined the academy, and I’m currently pursuing an MBA degree from ITM University in Gwalior,” she revealed.
Reena is also on the lookout for a job, but if she gets into a private company, what of her playing career? “I’m looking for a job, be it government or private, as it’ll give me a steady income. But if it’s the latter, then I’ll have to decide how to go about balancing sport and work, for they will not be as lenient as government institutions when it comes to a career in sports,” signed off the Chandigarh girl.
High-altitude training for women’s team
The women’s team will be travelling to Shilaroo (Himachal Pradesh) for an almost a month-long high-altitude training stint. Shilaroo, located at an altitude of 8,000 feet, is fast becoming a popular centre for high-altitude training among Indian sportspersons. The team will be there from June 1 to 24, before leaving for the Women’s Hockey World League Semifinals in Johannesburg on July 1 from New Delhi.