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Poised on the edge

Soundarya (right) and E. Rajini with coach, Gloria Jesudoss. Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

Soundarya (right) and E. Rajini with coach, Gloria Jesudoss. Photo: K. Ramesh Babu   | Photo Credit: K_RAMESH BABU

There is no women's hockey league in Hyderabad. One can imagine the plight of those genuinely talented in the rural areas but with no platform to showcase their skills. However even this backdrop did not deter two girls from Andhra Pradesh — 21-year-old Y. Soundarya from Nizamabad and 20-year-old E. Rajani from Chittoor, who created history of sorts by becoming the first ever duo to win a place in the Indian team for the World Cup championship in Argentina later this week.

Coming from the rural background, both Soundarya and Rajani, trainees under the watchful guidance of stubborn coach Gloria Pillai Jesudoss, they are a success story amidst adversity. With an unbridled zeal to keep improving with each season, both these gifted players moved up the ladder the hard way.

Soundarya played her first Nationals (under-17) I 2003-04, helping her team win the bronze. That was just the start she was looking for to launch what is turning out to be a remarkable career. She has always been a regular in all Nationals and Zonals since then with consistent performances.

One of Soundarya's memorable achievements was being a member of the gold-medal winning team in the Challenge cup (under-18) in Gifu (Japan), where she was also the only girl from South India in the Indian team. “When we picked up the silver in the 2007 three-nation event in Italy (juniors), it gave me immense satisfaction and the confidence to keep going,” she recalls.

Soundarya also has to her credit a bronze in the Senior Asian women championship (2009), a bronze in the Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney. “I only hope to keep coming up with special performances every time I get a chance to represent India,” she says with all modesty. “Like many, I always believe playing for the country at any level is a dream come true and having done so regularly, my focus shifts to winning more medals.”

For Rajani, the ‘custodian' under the bar on the field, it too has been a remarkable journey to earn a name for herself. Ever since she joined SAI in 2007 as a goalkeeper, she was one of the most-talked players amongst the trainees for her tremendous commitment to maintain high levels of excellence.

“She never complained even when she was given heavy workload in training, a very enthusiastic girl,” says the proud coach Gloria. For someone who was a regular at most of the national camps, Rajani got the big break when she represented India in the ‘Test' match against New Zealand against Japan early this year.

Rajani was also picked for 2009 Senior Asian championship in Korea and based on her creditable performance there, she now has the proud distinction of representing India in the World Cup in Rosario (Argentina). Incidentally, Gloria has the rare distinction of producing three internationals now from Andhra Pradesh (the other one being M. Satyavathi who joined Central Railway last year).

Indian hockey may have been in the news for all wrong reasons. But, these two Andhra girls are determined to bring laurels in the World Cup starting this week-end.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 5:10:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Poised-on-the-edge/article16144590.ece

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