Indian Hockey Captain Rani Rampal Wins ‘World Games Athlete of the Year’
After receiving the country’s fourth highest civilian honor by the government — the Padma Shri — just a couple days ago, 25-year-old Rani Rampal has added another feather to her cap. The Indian women’s hockey team captain became the first-ever hockey player worldwide to be declared the World Games Athlete of the Year 2019.
“With an impressive number of votes, 199,477, Rani is the clear winner of the Athlete of the Year race, where sports fans all over the world have voted for their favorite during 20 days of polling in January,” the World Games said in a statement.
Rampal was competing with 25 other athletes nominated for their respective sports by their international federations. Karate player Stanislav Horuna from Ukraine and Canada-based powerlifting world champion Rhaea Stinn bagged the second position with 92,000 votes.
“It is my privilege and honor to win this award. It is always nice when your country recognizes your effort. It is even better when the international sports community recognizes it. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me,” she said, The Week reported.
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Rampal has been a member of the national team since she was 15 and made her international debut in 2008 at the Olympic Qualifiers in Kazan, Russia. In 2016, she was part of the Indian team that played at the Rio Olympics for the first time in 36 years. It was under her captaincy that India qualified for the FIH Women’s World Cup in 2018. It was also under her leadership that the women’s team won the qualifier match against the United States and earned a seat at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the third time ever in India’s history.
“She has set an example to many and continues to play a pivotal role in the team’s preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games,” said Hockey India president Mohd Mushtaque Ahmad, on her Padma Shri win, Business Standard reported.
These prestigious awards, Rampal added, will not only turn the spotlight on the sport but also lead to a recognition of women’s hockey in India and the world.