BENGALURU: Equal opportunities like the men's hockey team and a robust junior program have been major contributing factors in the improved performance of the women's national side, feels skipper Rani Rampal.
The Indian women's hockey team has enjoyed a spate of good results in top tournaments recently, including winning the silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games and qualifying for back-to-back Olympics. "I believe our improved performance has a lot to do with the professional system laid out by the Federation. We have a good junior program too which identifies talented players," Rani said.
The skipper said the transition of young players into the senior side has been a smooth one, adding that competing in more international tournaments provides the right exposure to the team. "Young talent like Lalremsiami and Salima Tete who won the silver medal at the Youth Olympic Games 2018 in Buenos Aires have made a very smooth transition into the senior program. Ensuring we (women's team) also play equal or more number of international tournaments as the men's team gives us right exposure that adds to the confidence of these youngsters," she said.
Rani, who become the first woman hockey player to win the Khel Ratna award last month, said she continues to motivate her team to perform well at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. "Look at how lives of PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal has changed after doing well at the Olympic Games. They are not only sporting icons in the country but they are also self-sufficient, independent women and it's because of their achievements in sports," Rani said adding, "I wish similar success for our team and we are working towards it. We have that fire and hunger to excel and we know doing well at the Olympics will change our lives for the better."
Encouraging youngsters to pursue hockey, Rani said that the sport has made members of her team financially independent at a very young age and they are in a better position to take care of their families' needs.
"I think ten years or 15 years ago if someone said, we will take up hockey as a career they would either laugh or bluntly ask us how will that help make a living. But things have changed drastically in the sport now," she said.