The Indian Women’s Hockey team gave a splendid performance this year at the Tokyo Olympics. Despite the fact that they could not bag the Bronze medal during their qualifier match against Great Britain, they managed to make history. This team of super 16 players were the first in Indian history to qualify for the semi-finals at the Olympics. Win or lose, the fact remains that these 16 superheroes have brought glory and pride to the nation, and women everywhere, with their resilience, passion, indomitable spirit, and sports(wo)manship. While we knew very little about the team before their stint at the Olympic Games, each one of them deserve to be known better and applauded for the role they played in strengthening the team and country. Here’s everything you need to know about the team of 16 superb women who have made India so proud!
Rani Rampal, Captain/ForwardThe key player and captain of the team, this 26-year-old from Haryana made her hockey debut at the age of 14, and has played a vital role in winning international glory for the team and country throughout her professional life. Experts believe she was one of the chief reasons why Team India qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.
Savita Punia, Vice-Captain/GoalkeeperWith two Asian Games medals to her name, Punia is one of the star players of the team—as a goalkeeper should indeed be. Carrying a goalie’s equipment, especially during the heat of the game, can be quite difficult, but Punia manages it with panache. The fact that she was applauded for her role in the victory against Australia in the quarterfinals proves it.
Neha Goyal, MidfielderThis might be Goyal’s first time at the Olympics, but this 24-year-old has never been one to let the odds or obstacles stop her. Known for her scorching pace and goal scoring abilities, Goyal has the title of Hockey India Midfielder of the Year, and a silver medal at the Asian Games, under her belt.
Nikki Pradhan, DefenderPradhan hails from Jharkhand, and a family that has overcome financial troubles to play hockey. She got her first pair of professional hockey stick and shoes when she got the chance to play for an academy in Ranchi in 2006. From there on, the rise of this player has been significant. She made her Olympic debut in Rio 2016, and has played a prominent role in India’s victories at Tokyo too.
Nisha Warsi, MidfielderMaking her international debut only two years ago, partially owing to the fact that she had to take a break to support her family when her father had a paralytic attack in 2015. Warsi made her comeback to the game after his recovery, and took three years to get a place in the national team in 2018. Since then, this 26-year-old has been unstoppable.
Lalremsiami, ForwardBetter known as Siami, this 21-year-old player from Mizoram is the reason why the Indian team manages to play high-tempo hockey at international tournaments. Mentored by Rani Rampal, Siami made history as the first female player from her state to make it to the Olympics. Her rise in the team and the game has never been hindered by the fact that Siami could speak neither English nor Hindi when she first made it to the team.
Sushila Chanu, MidfielderIn the last decade, Chanu has emerged as one of the most experienced and influential hockey players in India. She captained the team at the Rio Olympics, and has played her part for the team and country at Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. Instrumental in India’s wins at Tokyo, Chanu has over 150 caps to her name and works for the Indian Railways in Mumbai.
Deep Grace Ekka, DefenderHailing from Lulkidihi, Odisha, Ekka was criticised in her small town for not doing her chores at home. Her family, which has also produced a former Indian goalkeeper for the men’s team, supported her hockey dreams—which helped her be a part of the national team that won the Asian Cup in 2017. This is her second stint at the Olympics, and she has over 200 caps to her name.
Salima Tete, MidfielderBorn in a Naxal stringhold in Jharkhand, which is also known for hockey enthusiasts, Tete worked in her family’s farm to be able to earn money to buy a hockey stick. One of the youngest players on the team at 19, Tete already has 29 caps to her name. Here’s hoping this young and rising player scores more during her Olympic stint.
Udita Duhan, DefenderDuhan’s introduction to hockey was purely by chance, as she was priming to pursue handball instead. A twist of fate at school, and her mother’s support, helped Duhan switch to hockey. Her rise in the game has been as quick as her playing speed since, and she even captained the Under-18 Hockey team that won the bronze medal at the Asian Cup, 2016. Since 2017, Duhan has been a fixture in the senior women’s team, and her contribution to the team’s high-paced game has been marked.
Vandana Katariya, ForwardThe only Indian woman player to score a hat-trick at the Olympics, Katariya’s game during the Tokyo Games has been at a high point. This, despite the fact that she lost her father just a few months ago, and couldn’t attend the funeral. Given her father had been her main source of support against societal pressures, this loss must have been felt heavily indeed.
Navneet Kaur, ForwardOne of the eight players from the current team that also competed at Rio, Kaur has been one of India’s most consistent forwards. Her series of incredible performances began with the Junior World Cup, 2013, where the Indian team won a bronze. Expectations from this 25-year-old have been high throughout the Tokyo Games, and she hasn’t disappointed one bit.
Monika Malik, MidfielderThis 27-year-old from Sonepat, Haryana, started her hockey training in Chandigarh, and even holds a business administration degree from Kurukshetra University. Often lauded as the Indian national team’s backbone, Malik has helped her team win the Asian Cup in 2018, a bronze at the Asian Games in 2014, and a silver at the Asian Games in 2018.
Gurjit Kaur, DefenderThis 25-year-old scored the first goal against Argentina during the semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics. Her goal against Australia during the quarter-finals won hearts, but this wasn’t the first time Kaur stole the show. She scored eight goals at the Asia Cup, 2017, and was the top scorer when India won the FIH Women’s Series in 2019.
Sharmila Devi, ForwardThis 19-year-old from Haryana made her Olympic debut only this year, but has already left an indelible mark. On the scoresheet when India managed to qualify for the Tokyo Games, Devi has performed consistently throughout.
Navjot Kaur, MidfielderIt was with the encouragement of her father that Kaur started her hockey training in 2003. Inducted into the national team in 2012, Kaur has been its mainstay and contributed by her innate ability to poach goals while playing midfield—a remarkable feat indeed. This is her second time at the Olympic Games, but Kaur already has experience playing internationally, having played at the Asian Games in 2014 and 2018, and the World Cup in 2018.