Today we meet The World Games Athlete of the Year 2019, Indian Hockey star Rani. While Rani has not yet played at The World Games, she might be there at The World Games 2021, if Hockey is able to participate as planned as a demonstration sport.
Why did you choose Hockey as your sport ?
I grew up in a small town in Haryana called Shahbad Markanda. In this town, Hockey is very popular because there were already a lot of Hockey players who had represented India, and they were all groomed in the Academy run by a very famous Indian coach. Being from this town, it was natural for me to take up the sport from a very young age.
What did your parents think when you wanted to start Hockey?
They looked at me as if I had done something wrong or said a rude word! Nobody else in my family is any good at sport, and I have no clue how this happened to me. I used to watch players at the Hockey training academy in my school, and I just wanted it so badly; I kept nagging my parents, day and night. We were poor, and me getting in to school was already a luxury. We did not even own a watch. After a lot of crying and pleading, my father gave in.
What is your biggest strength in Hockey?
I always say that my team is my biggest strength. As women in sport in India, we do face a lot of societal pressure, especially since most of us are from rural India. A girl child taking up sport is not necessarily considered as part of normal society. Having been through the odds to rise, all of us in the team understand each other very well and this shows in our performance on the field. On the personal front I believe that my will-power is one of my biggest plus points.
What is your (and your team’s) goal in Tokyo?
Winning a medal is definitely on our minds, but we also understand that we need to cross several hurdles before we get there, so we are taking it one step at a time. Our first goal will be to make the Quarter Finals in Tokyo.
There are plans to include Hockey 5s as a demonstration sport for The World Games 2021. Have you ever played Hockey 5s?
Yes, I have played Hockey 5s during the Hockey India Hockey 5s National Championships. It is a very spectator-friendly, fast and fun version of Hockey. Although I personally love the conventional format, I think Hockey 5s has potential in the future, and it would be great to have it included as a demonstration sport for The World Games 2021.
If you could not choose Hockey, which of the sports of The World Games 2021 would you like to try and why?
I would maybe choose Kickboxing or Ju-jitsu, as they’re also a form of self-defence and we have tried some of this as part of our camp and I have enjoyed the experience.
Besides playing Hockey, you study at university. What do you study, and what do you want to become after your Hockey career is over?
I am currently pursuing my MA (Master of Arts) with English as one of the main subjects. I am currently employed as a coach in the Sports Authority of India. I am quite interested in taking up coaching in the future, and contributing to the sport which has given me so much in return.
How do your parents now feel about you playing Hockey?
As a child, I have always wanted to uplift the conditions of my family. Hockey granted that desire. Now, we have a proper house and I feel so good every time I go there. My parents are not educated; they can’t even write their own names, so no chance of understanding Hockey. Despite all that, they don’t miss any of my matches telecast on television. They have worked so hard for me. Now it is time for them to relax and my turn to help them.
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.