Sticking to success
From growing up in the small town of Shahbad in Haryana to captaining the Indian Women’s Hockey Team, Rani Rampal has come from strength to strength. This is her story
Champions are not made overnight nor are they born with a special instruction manual or a special set of genes that help them win. Indian Women Hockey team captain Rani Rampal’s story is a lesson in what it really takes to be a champion. Her dedication, perseverance, focus and discipline have made her one of the most prominent faces of Indian sports today. From a humble beginning as a cart puller’s daughter living in the small town of Shahbad in Haryana to becoming an Arjuna Awardee, Rampal’s story is truly inspirational.
Sharing her story, Rampal says that she was only six years old when she was first introduced to the sport. “I knew nothing but hockey. Everybody in my hometown played the sport. I was 14 when I was chosen to represent the country in the 2010 World Cup, despite being the youngest player in the national team,” she says.
Rampal had to face gender bias and societal pressures during her journey but she never let these distract her from her ultimate goal of playing for India. She lived away from her family and earned her finances to support her dream. Even though she could not finish formal education like others her age, she has been successful in breaking the gender stereotype with her pathbreaking journey.
Expressing her gratitude on receiving the prestigious Arjuna Award (given by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India to recognize outstanding achievement in sports) in 2016, the young achiever points out that the credit goes to her coach Dronacharya-awardee Sardar Baldev Singh, who coached and mentored her towards success and stood by her through every one of her victories.
Rampal and a whole new tribe of young athletes are bringing the dreams, skills, and capabilities of rural India to the forefront. Far away from high-end sporting technology, and urban infrastructure and resources, these youngsters, and their dedicated coaches, tap into the resources they have, create the infrastructure for themselves and use digital networks to connect with academies and potential sponsors. They are also well aware of the setbacks along the way such as the lack of media coverage and mass popularity. But nothing seems to stop them from dreaming big.
Remembering her initial struggles, Rampal says that a lot of people had told her that she was wasting time and money. She herself felt that there was a complete lack of dedication and consistency in Indian sports. However, her father and her coach supported her at every step. “They practically trained me to wear blinders and stay focussed. I faced the hurdles that came my way with a lot of patience. All I wanted was to win for India and see the tricolor right on the top, and this desire helped me to push myself,” Rampal says.
The talented player has had many historic days on the field – be it the Champion’s Challenge Tournament in Kazan, Russia, (2009) where, along with the team, Rampal accelerated India’s win by scoring four goals in the finals, or be it winning the silver medal for the Indian team in the Asia Cup held in 2009. She was also chosen as the player of the tournament during the Junior Hockey World Cup in 2013 in Monchengladbach, Germany. More recently, Rampal and her team bagged the Women’s Asian Cup for the second time in 2017 at Kakamigahara in Japan and ended 2018 by winning a silver medal at the Asian Games for India.
While the country now knows her hometown Shahbad, by her name, and international players acknowledge the Indian team’s fierce competition, Rampal refuses to be content. She wants more. She is confident about her team and with this belief in herself, and her teammates, she has been training incessantly to achieve two goals in the near future: qualifying for the Olympics 2020 and winning the gold for India.
The captain not only contributes to the field with her unmatched skills but also works off the field towards the betterment of Indian women’s hockey. She has been helping talented women hockey players by personally mentoring and supporting them in their efforts to join the national team. She travels across villages in India in search of talented hockey players.
Rampal has also contributed towards the “5-mins aur khelega India, tabhi tohjeetega India”,an initiative of the Ministry of Sports. Started by Union Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore during the Khelo India Youth Games, this initiative is aimed at promoting sports at school levels.
The sports star wants women to be fit and healthy.“Women must play sports. Not only if they want to be professional athletes but also to stay fit. I truly believe that staying fit is the key to a happy life and all women of the country owe it to themselves to be fit,” she says.