BENGALURU: Experienced goalkeeper in the Indian women's hockey team, Rajani Etimarpu believes that the side's efforts to achieve success at the international level will pave way for younger players to take up the sport professionally.
In the last four years, the Indian women's team has not only impressed with their performances but have also climbed up the FIH world ranking. Currently ranked world number nine, the Indian side has won significant tournaments such as Asia Cup in 2017, Asian Champions Trophy in 2016 and they won a silver medal in the 2018 edition of the Asian Champions Trophy.
The team led by Rani Rampal also secured a berth for their second consecutive Olympic Games by winning the FIH Olympic Qualifiers in 2019, the first time in history that the team will participate in back-to-back Olympic Games.
"I think the team has done remarkably well over the past four years. We have been able to up our level of performance against some of the best teams in the world and at the same time, we have also engaged in social causes like raising funds for the poor and needy during this pandemic. It feels great that our efforts on and off the field are being recognised. I am hopeful this will make more women take up the sport in the future," said Rajani in an official Hockey India release.
The Indian women's team was recently recognised with the Vogue Women of the Year 2020 award (sports category) for their philanthropic efforts to raise funds to feed over 1,000 families whose lives were affected due to the pandemic and series of nationwide lockdown.
Rajani who hails from Andhra Pradesh emphasised that good results in the Olympics will help in attracting more women players to take up the sport.
"Doing well in the Tokyo Olympic Games will certainly lift the profile of the sport and it will certainly encourage more women to take up hockey. The recognition that the Indian women's hockey has received in these past few years through various awards has already spurred participation of women in the sport and we are certain that through our good performance more women will feel that hockey can be a viable career option," said Rajani.
Speaking about the ongoing national camp in SAI, Bengaluru, Rajani said: "We have managed to improve our level of fitness in these past four months. It is important now to ensure we maintain this fitness when we return home for a break and ensure we follow all safety protocols. We were lucky that none of us in the women's core group tested positive after the break last time and hopefully we can maintain a clean slate this time as well."