Rani Rampal – Turning Adversity into Opportunity

PC – Hockey India. Rani Rampal has been an inspiration for many

The city of Rosario is famously known as the birthplace of Lionel Messi. But for a hockey fan, the city brings back vivid memories of Rani Rampal, one of the game’s greatest players, displaying a wonderful exhibition of goal-scoring at the 2010 World Cup. A 15-year-old then, she scored as many as seven goals. 

One of the goals in particular would echo in the minds of hockey connoisseurs for generations to come: She took on Netherlands’ defence single-handedly and cracked one past Floortje Engels, the goalkeeper. It was sheer wizardry with a hockey stick. For her efforts, she was duly adjudged the Best Young Player of the Tournament.

Behind all those goals at major events, there is a heart-stirring story of a girl overcoming hardships. To even partially grasp the enormity of her struggles, we have to take a jog down the memory lane. Rani, born on December 4, 1994, in Shahabad, Haryana, came from a very humble background. Rani’s father used to sell bricks with the help of a horse-cart, but she had a dream of playing hockey and making a name for herself.

She once observed on Humans of Bombay’s Instagram page: “I wanted an escape from my life; from the electricity shortages to the mosquitoes buzzing in our ear, from barely having two meals to seeing our home getting flooded. There was only so much my parents could do — Papa was a cart puller and Maa was a maid.”

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But her road to success had enough hurdles. A passionate Rani would spend hours together watching hockey players practice at a nearby academy. Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t convince the academy’s coach of her credentials. During that time, she practiced with broken sticks. Eventually, Baldev Singh, her coach, agreed to take Rani under his wings. 

Rani also had another task on her hands: Persuading her parents in order to chase her chariot of dreams. She did all of that and went on to make her India debut at the age of just 14 in the 2008 Olympic Qualifiers. Incidentally, Rani became the youngest hockey player India had ever selected.

Rani has had a stellar career, which includes a couple of medals at the Asian Games, alongside being a part of the team that won the gold at the Asia Cup in 2017. She has also clinched three medals at the Asian Champions Trophy and was adjudged the Player of the Tournament at the Junior Hockey World Cup in 2013. One of her finest on-field performances has to be captaining India to a best-ever fourth-placed finish at the Tokyo Olympics. 

Sporting champions are different species. They don’t think like us. For an outsider, it might seem like a futile exercise, but they invest years together to achieve their goals. Rani is certainly a champion, not just on the field but also off it. In a nutshell, she teaches us lessons on how to triumph over adversity. Rani was at the Trailblazers Conclave last year and it will be a pleasure to welcome her back for this year’s event. 



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