India's Lalremsiami on Sunday said her selection in the Tokyo-bound Indian contingent is the biggest achievement of her career as it helped her fulfill her late father's dream.
The 21-year-old made history when she became the first female player from Mizoram to be picked for the Olympics. Her selection also meant she managed to give her State an Olympian after 25 long years.
Archer C. Lalremsanga was the last Olympian from Mizoram. He represented India at the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
"[The selection is a] very big thing for me. It is the biggest achievement of my short career so far," Lalremsiami, who hails from Kolasib in Mizoram, told PTI .
Lalremsiami lost her biggest supporter, her father, just a day before India's semifinal match against Chile in FIH Series Finals last year in Hiroshima, Japan. Instead of returning home, however, the young striker braved personal tragedy and decided to stay back with the team. India went on to win the tournament beating host Japan 3-1. Lalremsiami's only regret is that she couldn't bid a final goodbye to her father.
"He was the biggest supporter. He had faith in every decision I took in my career. My only regret is that I couldn't bid him a final goodbye. But he definitely would have been proud of my decision," she said.
"Staying back with the team was the most difficult decision of my life but I believe my Papa would be happy with my decision as he wanted me to serve the nation and one day play in the Olympics. I wish Papa was alive today to see his daughter playing in the Olympics. It was his dream and I am living that."
Not many people play hockey in Mizoram as the State is famous for producing footballers, archers, and martial art athletes. So when Lalremsiami decided to take up hockey as a professional sport, there weren't many supporters of her decision in the family. It took a lot of convincing to finally get the go-ahead.
"I started playing hockey at the age of 11. I was brought into the sport by my sports teacher at school when he selected me for a school-level tournament," she said.
"Before that, I never played hockey. But when I started playing, I liked the sport and then I joined the hockey academy at the SAI Centre in Thenzawl in 2011 and from there I never looked back." Lalremsiami said initially she had to face "resistance from my family as they didn't know anything about hockey."
"I told them about the sport but my father was still apprehensive as he didn't want my studies to get affected but later on he agreed when I made him understand that at the academy I can study alongside playing hockey."
Lalremsiami, who won the women's FIH Rising Star Award in 2019, now just wants to give her best in the Tokyo Games.
" [Winning a medal in the Olympics] is not impossible. We can win a medal because in modern hockey there is a very little gap between two teams. If you play to your potential you can beat any team on your given day," she said.
"We have worked really hard in these difficult COVID times, we have made many adjustments and compromises, so we won't let that go wasted. I know my role in the team and will work towards fulfilling them."
This will be the women's team's third appearance at the Olympics and the second consecutive, with the previous appearances coming in 1980 and 2016.
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