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Indian women hockey team: Haryana mid-fielder set to play second Olympics

Monika was a part of the team which competed in the Rio Olympics in 2016 — as India's women hockey team had qualified for the Olympics then after a gap of 36 years.

As 27-year-old Haryana mid-fielder Monika was named in the 16-member Indian hockey team for Tokyo Olympics on Thursday, she called her father Takdeer Singh Malik, an ASI with the Chandigarh Police, to tell him about her selection. This announcement by Hockey India means that Monika will be one of the eight players, including captain Rani Rampal, who will be playing their second Olympics.

Monika was a part of the team which competed in the Rio Olympics in 2016 — as India’s women hockey team had qualified for the Olympics then after a gap of 36 years.

“It’s a special feeling to play a second Olympics and it will motivate us all to do better in Tokyo. It has been a tough journey and to maintain my spot in the team all these years feels special. The fact that some of us, including captain Rani Rampal, will be playing their second Olympics will help the team and the youngsters. I am looking forward to going to Tokyo Olympics as a senior member of the Indian team,” shares Monika while talking with The Indian Express from Bengaluru.

Hailing from Gamri village near Gohana in Sonepat district of Haryana, a young Monika had begun playing hockey at Government School in Sector 44, Chandigarh, before joining the Chandigarh Girls Hockey Academy (CGHA), Sector 18, in 2007. In the next four years, she became a part of the Chandigarh and CGHA title winning teams before she made the switch to Haryana.

After making her international debut against New Zealand in 2012, the youngster was a part of the Junior World Cup bronze medal wining Indian women’s hockey team. In the last seven years, Monika has been part of the 2014 Asian Games bronze medal and 2018 Asian Games, silver medal winning Indian teams, besides being named as the woman of the match in the finals of Asia Cup in 2017.

In 2019, the mid-fielder completed 150 matches for the Indian women’s team and was also a part of the Argentina and Germany tours recently. “I always wanted to be a mid-fielder and have learned a lot from the experience of playing in Asian Games, Asia Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Since my junior days, I have played along with players like Rani Rampal and Navjot Kaur apart from other senior players and it helps us all. To be named the woman of the match in the Asia Cup Final was a moment to remember and I hope I can help the team win more matches,” shares Monika

The Indian team has been training under chief coach Sjord Marijne at Bengaluru and the last one year has seen the team travelling to Argentina and Germany to compete at the international level. “Since the pandemic started, the team has been staying in Bengaluru and we have been lucky that we got to train as a group amid the pandemic. Chief coach Sjord Marjine understands which player is suitable for which role and their qualities. His insights have helped the whole team,” adds Monika.

As for her father ASI Takdeer Singh Mailk and mother Kamla Devi and three elder brothers, they are eagerly waiting to see their daughter compete in her second Olympics at Tokyo and return home with a medal.

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