No one could predict the acclaim the Indian Hockey star Rani received when she became The World Games Athlete of the Year 2019 in January. She was not only supported and praised by Hockey fans from all over the world, but also by the official bodies and media outlets of India: the official Sports Authority of India saluted Rani on their Twitter and Instagram accounts and the Minister of State, Youth Affairs and Sports, Kiren Rijiju, did the same “on behalf of the government and the people of India”. Minister Rijiju had already expressed his support for Rani during the campaign.
Rani was interviewed for numerous magazines and radio shows. She was also promoted by the media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, including India's leading financial, economic and business information source, CNBC-TV18 which shared the news to their 1.6 million followers on Facebook and Twitter, and Star Sports India, who informed their 4.5 million Instagram followers of the news. If searching with the hashtag #TheWorldGamesAOTY you can find other big fans of Rani, such as Times of India (12.3 m followers), DD News, the Public Broadcaster of India (2.6 m followers), Press Trust of India (2.1 m followers) and Toi Sports, a Times Internet product (1m followers).
Hockey India made sure that Rani was congratulated appropriately as well. When she arrived back home in India from her playing tour in New Zealand, she was greeted at the airport with a big banner congratulating her for the two prestigious awards she had received in January: the Indian civil award Padma Shri, and The World Games Athlete of the Year award.
Rani herself has been happy with the success and the interest in her and her sport in a country full of cricket fans.
“I dedicate this award to the entire Hockey fraternity, my team and my country. This success has only become possible with the love and support from Hockey lovers, fans, my team, our coaches, Hockey India, my government, friends from Bollywood, fellow sportspersons and my countrymen who have continuously voted for me. Special thanks to FIH for nominating me for this prestigious award. Thank you to the World Games Federation for this recognition.”
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 15-25 July 2021. 3,600 athletes from over 30 sports and 100 countries will take part in the Games.