Bengaluru: Annu, the dynamic forward of the Indian Junior Women's Hockey Team, shared insights into her journey from the quaint village of Rojkhera near Jind, Haryana, to the national team in a heartfelt conversation on Monday. Annu also credited Rani, former Indian Captain, and her father, Mr. Rajpal, with propelling her hockey career to new heights.
Annu hopes to not only make her mentors proud but also contribute to the nation's glory on the international stage as she prepares to compete in the upcoming FIH Hockey Women's Junior World Cup 2023.
"My father was adamant from the start that I play a sport professionally. I used to play Kho Kho, but when I joined a sports academy in Sirsa in 2011, I was forced to choose between Judo and Hockey. To pique my interest in the sport, my father told me stories about former India Captain Rani, who is also from Haryana. 'I was very moved by the example she set after hearing about her from my father', and it has motivated me during difficult times ever since," Annu said of Rani's influence on her life.
Annu moved to SAI Hisar in 2013 after a two-year stint in Sirsa to train under Azad Singh. She has since competed in several National Championships as well as three editions of the Khelo India Youth Games. Her outstanding performance in the 9th Hockey India Junior Women National Championship 2019 earned her a spot in the juniors' core group.
"When I was a kid, the medals I won at school were treated with disregard; the entire community would try to discredit my accomplishments. Despite this, I am grateful that my father did not let the outside noise bother him or me and instead continued to encourage me. My mother was also quite ill at the time, and it was difficult for me to stay away from them; going through that phase was difficult for the entire family. Even though I cried and gave up at times, my father held the ship together, and it is all thanks to him that I have made it this far," she elaborated on the trials she has faced thus far.
Annu was a member of the Women's Junior Asia Cup winning team in Kakamigahara, Japan. She finished this campaign as the leading scorer, with 9 goals in 5 games. Annu is now focused on the FIH Hockey Women's Junior World Cup 2023, which will take place from 29th November to 10th December. India are placed in Pool C, alongside Germany, Belgium, and Canada.
"The entire team is working extremely hard in preparation for this World Cup. There are always areas where we can improve; for example, I have been working on regaining possession of the ball after we lose it in forward positions. I was a standby in the previous edition, but now I will have the opportunity to give it my all on the pitch and hopefully make the country proud," Annu concluded.