Rio Olympics was a turning point for us: Khel Ratna nominee Rani

India women’s hockey captain Rani on Wednesday stated that she feels extremely honoured for being nominated for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.

“I feel very honoured for being nominated for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award. I am overwhelmed that Hockey India has recommended my name for the top award and their continued support always encourages the team and I to do well,” expressed Rani, who is also a recipient of the Padma Shri Award.

Hockey India has also recommended the names of Vandana Katariya, Monika and Harmanpreet Singh for the Arjuna Award.

Extending her congratulations to her compatriots Rani said, “It is fantastic that we have two players from the women’s team being nominated for the Arjuna Award. I congratulate both Vandana and Monika, they are very deserving of this recognition. I also feel that two players being nominated goes to show that women’s hockey is moving in the right direction and this will only motivate us to do better on the world stage.”

Rani has led the Indian eves to historic victories in the Women’s Asia Cup in 2017, silver at the 2018 Asian Games and played a critical role in the Olympic Qualifiers in 2019 by scoring the deciding goal that helped in India’s qualification for the Tokyo Olympics. The team also climbed to a career-best world ranking of nine.

While some of these feats will be cherished by the team for a long time, Rani feels the turning point for her was the team’s first-ever appearance at the Olympic Games.

“I personally feel the Rio Olympic Games was a turning point for us. We were dismal in our performance and we knew we had to really work hard if we wanted to do well at the world stage or even at the Asian level,” Rani who is currently based in SAI Centre, Bengaluru along with all the senior women’s core probables group, said.

“Having that singular focus in mind, we started working towards being known as a tough team, a winning team and not as the underdogs.”

She further stated, “Confidence played a huge role in our transformation. Having a brilliant support staff led by chief coach Sjoerd Marijne who always encouraged us to ‘speak up and be bold’ started showing in our game. A lot of credit for our success goes to the support staff who always backed us no matter what.”

Hockey India President Mohd Mustaque Ahmad on Tuesday said, “Sardar Singh was the last hockey player to win the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award. Rani has set new benchmarks in women’s hockey and we at Hockey India feel she is very deserving of the top award.”