Members of the Indian women’s hockey team will leave no stone unturned for a podium finish at the Tokyo Games as they aspire to become Olympic medallists and not just Olympians, midfielder Nikki Pradhan said on Tuesday. The 2016 Rio Games saw the Indian women’s team qualify for the Olympics after 36 years. “It was a huge moment for all of us in 2016, I think we were overwhelmed that we had made it there after 36 years. But I believe that was just the start,” Nikki said.
The Indian team sealed a second consecutive berth in the now postponed Tokyo Olympics after beating USA 6-5 on aggregate in November. “I have always dreamt of an Olympic medal, and I know the rest of the girls also want to be known as Olympic medallists, and not just Olympians. So whenever we step foot in Tokyo, we will do everything to make the podium,” she added.
The dynamic midfielder opened up about her journey from a small village of Hesal in Jharkhand to playing in the Olympics.
Having grown up in the district of Khunti in Jharkhand, Nikki recalls she wasn’t always that confident, and had to take the hard road during her journey to the Indian team, but says it was worth it. “I come from a place which is actually the hotbed of women’s hockey, and it was definitely a very tough journey because back then you would have limited resources.” “At times it was difficult for me to imagine being a professional hockey player, but I think the hard work that I put in, and the support that I received from everyone around me, really proved to be a boost. I started representing the state, which eventually led me to a national team call-up,” said Nikki.
“I think another factor was that I had some big names from my state that I looked up to, especially in women’s hockey. I decided I would do everything possible to give my best and represent India one day, and here I am,” said Nikki, who has over 110 international caps for her country.
Having witnessed a lean phase, Nikki feels hockey is on the rise again in Jharkhand.
“With Salima (Tete) in the squad, you can see how talented the players in Jharkhand are. She has developed really well in the past couple of years, and its good to see someone from my region in the team.” “It also proves that the sport is again developing constantly, and that players are taking it seriously. I certainly expect a lot more players to make it to the squad in the upcoming years.”