Rani Rampal feeling honoured to be nominated for Khel Ratna

Bengaluru (Karnataka) [India], June 3 (ANI): Indian Women's Hockey team skipper Rani Rampal on Wednesday said she is feeling 'very honoured' to be nominated for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna.

"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 me to do well," Hockey India's official website quoted Rampal as saying.

Hockey India on Tuesday nominated Rampal, who is a recipient of the Padma Shri Award, for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award while her compatriots Vandana Katariya, Monika, and Harmanpreet Singh were nominated for the Arjuna Award.

Extending her congratulations to her compatriots, Rampal 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."

The period of consideration for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award is between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2019. During this period, Rampal has led the Indian Women's Hockey team to historic victories in the Women's Asia Cup in 2017, silver at the 2018 Asian Games and played a critical role in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers in 2019 by scoring the deciding goal that helped India qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.

During this period, the Indian Women's Hockey team also climbed to a career-best FIH World Ranking of No.9. First from India to be named as the World Games Athlete of the Year 2019, Rampal has also been the recipient of the Arjuna Award in 2016 before she was bestowed with the prestigious Padma Shri award in 2020.

While some of these feats will be cherished by the team for a long time, Rampal 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. 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 said.

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." (ANI)