Rani Rampal was a teenager when she was included as the youngest in the Indian women’s hockey squad for the 2010 World Cup. Adjudged ‘Young Player of the Tournament’, she was named in the Asian All Star and World XI teams as well that year.
Eight years on, the daughter of a cart-puller from Shahbad, Haryana will lead the national team at the 2018 World Cup to be held in London later later this month.
In her decade-long India career, Rani has not only emerged the face of Indian women’s hockey, but also helped lift her struggling family.
Hers is a rags-to-riches story – from living in a shanty till last year, she has gifted her parents a two-story house with all modern amenities, including a modular kitchen.
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“It’s a dream come true. When I took up the sport, I never thought of reaching so far. When I joined the Shahbad hockey centre, my ultimate aim was to make it to the India team and play with the seniors from our centre who were regulars in the team at that time. Now, gradually the coaches have shown faith in me to lead the team,” says Rani, currently in the national camp at Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre, Bangalore. “What I am today is because of my coach Baldev (Singh) Sir. I attribute my name, fame and money to him,” adds Rani.
When Rani took up the game, there were days when even getting their daily bread was a struggle for her family. But she never let her family’s financial constraints stop her from chasing her dream.
“My journey of the last ten years is nothing less than a fairy tale. I have not forgotten what my family has gone through over the years; to support my hockey, they had to curtail other expenses. There was time when getting new shoes used to be the utmost luxury,” recalls Rani, a SAI coach posted at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala.
“I have seen days when we couldn’t even afford an alarm clock in our house, I used to wake up for early morning training by seeing the position of stars. Now I have an Apple watch, ipad and cell phone. With good grace, I am financially comfortable. Still, I try to save the money where I can. Last year, after returning home from the Arjuna award ceremony, I had a flight from Delhi to Chandigarh. But from Chandigarh, I travelled by normal bus to Shahbad,” adds Rani.
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Rani’s father worked as a cart-puller till last year; one brother is a carpenter and the other a mechanic. Thanks to Rani, her family’s financial condition has improved. And Rani, the only graduate in the family, has given hope to kids in the family who are studying in private schools.
Rani’s biggest gift to her family is the house. “This is the least I can do for my family. I don’t want my father to work anymore. He has already done a lot for all of us. I want him to relax and play with his grandchildren (brother’s kids),” says Rani, hoping her team performs well at the World Cup and Asian Games.