The Indian women's hockey team entering the semifinals at the Tokyo Olympics has been nothing short of a dream. But behind this dream are 16 exceptional players who have worked hard day and night.
Fighting all odds that life threw at them, these ladies have proved that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.
Rani Rampal - Forward, Shahbad, Haryana
Coming from a small town in Haryana, Rani always had big dreams. Due to financial constraints, Rani used to play hockey using a broken stick back in the day. But she fought all odds and became a star player. Reportedly, she was a big reason for the team to win a Junior World Cup medal and a key player for the team this Tokyo Olympics.
Savita Punia - Goalkeeper, Jodhkan, Haryana
Another reason for India to reach the semi-finals in Hockey was Savita Puniya. She was encouraged by her grandfather to take up the game and the rest is history. According to BetterIndia, Savita used to travel around 30 km (from her village to her school) six times a week just to work on her hockey skills.
Nisha Warsi - Midfielder, Sonipat, Haryana
Nisha is a new addition to the team but she has been quick to make a place for herself. Just like others, Nisha also came from a humble background. Her father worked as a tailor and was the main reason for her to pick up hockey. She debuted internationally in the 2019 FIH Women's Series Finals against Uruguay.
Neha Goyal - Midfielder, Sonipat, Haryana
Hockey was always a passion for Neha but she had to do odd jobs along with her mother to help out with the finances. Although she couldn't stay away from the game as at the age of 18, she contested to be a part of the national team. Since then, she has won the silver medal at the Asian Games and was even lauded with the Hockey India Midfielder of the Year Award.
Sushila Chanu - Midfielder, Imphal, Manipur
Hailing from Imphal, Sushila is another striking player who has also donned the captain's hat for the team. She is one of the most experienced players and has played in the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and was a key player in the quarter-finals against Australia in Olympics this year.
Nikki Pradhan - Defender, Hesal, Jharkhand
Nikki debuted for India back in 2011 in the U-17 Asia Cup held in Bangkok. This was her first time representing the country and since then, there has been no looking back for Nikki. After her selection to play at the Olympics, she became the first woman player from Jharkhand to make it to the Olympics.
Udita Duhan - Defender, Hisar, Haryana
Udita initially started her career in sports by taking up Handball as her father used to play the same sport. But her mother introduced her to hockey. Her career grew exponentially after that as she made it to the junior hockey team. She was also made the captain of the same team. Post that, she was promoted to the senior team.
Lalremsiami - Forward, Mizoram
Lalremsiami became the first Indian woman to be given the FIH Rising Star Award. She was just out of her teens when she made it to the team. She was also a part of the Under-18 Indian team at the Asia Cup, 2016 and was soon transferred to the senior team.
Deep Grace Ekka - Defender, Lulkidihi, Odisha
Deep was always destined to pursue hockey. Just like her brother Dinesh, who is a former Indian goal-keeper, she also wanted to be the same. Advised otherwise by her brother, Deep took up the Defender's position. Even her father and uncle were local players. She made it to the Junior team, India, and is now representing India a second time at the Olympics.
Vandana Katariya - Forward, Roshanabad, Uttarakhand
Did you know that in the quarter-final to beat South Africa, Vandana delivered a hat-trick and is the only Indian woman to do so? This was right after she had lost her father. He was the one who had supported her constantly when everyone was against her dreams. She couldn't even attend the funeral as she was in-between training. Truly inspiring.
Salima Tete - Midfielder, Hesal, Jharkhand
Salima was always motivated to turn her dreams into reality. Since her family couldn't afford proper equipment, she worked at the family farm, saved up, and bought herself a hockey stick. She considers Rani as her role model and has won 29 caps for the senior national team.
Navneet Kaur - Forward, Haryana
Navneet has played 79 times for the national teams and scored 24 goals. She considers Jamie Dwyer from the Australian team as her role model. The magical moment for her must be when she defeated her role model's team at the Olympics on Monday. She even won the bronze medal at the 2013 Junior World Cup.
Gurjit Kaur - Defender, Punjab
Drag flicker Gurjit Kaur has been an integral player for the national team. Till now, she has earned 87 caps and scored 60 goals. She also scored 8 goals at the Asia Cup in 2017. And gave a phenomenal performance at the Tokyo Olympics which turned everything around for the country.
Monika Malik - Midfielder, Haryana
Monika was the reason for the team to win a bronze medal at the Asia Cup in 2018 and a silver one at the Asian Games 2018. She has earned 150 caps for the team and scored 8 goals. According to HockeyIndia, her favourite winning moment was when she played for India for the first time.
Tweet your wishes for Monika Malik of India's Senior Women's Team as she celebrates her birthday today! pic.twitter.com/A3xbwBRyIF— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) November 5, 2015
Navjot Kaur - Midfielder, Kurukshetra, Haryana
Navjot started training back in 2003 and made it to the National team in 2012 because of scoring abilities. Since then, she has won bronze and even a silver medal at the Asian Games held in 2014 and 2015.
Sharmila Devi - Forward, Haryana
This forward striker made her debut in 2019 at the Tokyo Test Event. Fascinated by the game ever since she was a kid, Sharmila trained from a very early stage and made it to the junior team in 2018.
They have made the entire country proud.