Inspirational Captain Preeti Bought Glory to the Nation.
Junior Asia Cup: Captain Preeti inspires India to bag maiden junior Asian crown in Japan on Sunday.
Barely 13 with dreams of representing India at the Olympic Games, Preeti's world came crashing down in March 2016. During a training session on home turf in Sonepat, the defender broke her ankle bone. Lack of timely and appropriate medical care resulted in complications and the teenager underwent a surgery with a permanent rod holding her ankle together. Doctors told Preeti she could never play hockey. Most in her family urged her to give up on her dream, but her father Shamsher Singh urged her to follow her heart. The 20-year-old led India to their maiden junior Asia Cup women's title and capped her fine run in the competition with the player of the tournament award.
"The phase between March 2016 and December 2017 was the lowest of my life. My family didn't have plenty, but my father's support was unconditional. When people said I couldn't pick up the stick again, I became more determined to make a comeback. The journey was painful, but I always knew I could make it count", an emotional Preeti told. "Teamwork and unity played a key role in our success. We were determined not to return home empty-handed and I am thrilled that we finished as champions. There is no better feeling than making your country proud", she added. The team has weathered some tough times. Erik Wonink, who joined the team as coach in January 2020,made a mysterious exit earlier this year.
Harvinder Singh was then made in-charge and for the Asia Cup, senior team coach Janneke Schopman led the coaching staff. The team ensured they picked up from where Wonink, largely credited for the shaping of the team, left. Speaking on the team's preparations, Preeti, whose father is a master Mason in Sonepat, pointed out that training with the senior team and the Junior men worked well for them. "We have been in continuous campus at SAI, Bengaluru for the better part of the year. Since all the national teams have a common base, we got to play matches against the senior women and the Junior men's teams". Among the players who had an influence on Preeti and Monika Malik and Skipper Savita Punia.
"I learnt a lot from them on and off the field. We went into the tournament short of experience, but Monika didi told us that we must go into each match with a never-give-up attitude. Even if we were a goal down, we should not loose hope until the last second. Savita didi gave me valuable leadership advice like patience, keeping the team together, communication and treating the young players with care and compassion", explained Preeti, who made the national Junior camp in 2018. Having secured a direct entry into the FIH Junior women's World Cup in Santiago, Chile later in the year, Preeti said, the focus has now shifted to doing well at the show-piece event. "The Asia Cup was our first step towards the World Cup. We now know the grey areas we need to work on and are keen on improving our game before the World Cup", she signed off.
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