Reena Khokar: After eye injury, I wondered whether I would play hockey again

The India midfielder opens up about her freak accident that kept her out of the team for a number of months.

Reena Khokar has played 45 matches for India. - HOCKEY INDIA

A freak accident while training in the gymnasium in April, 2019, had Reena Khokar fearing for her career. In a chat with Hockey India, the India midfielder opened up about her eye injury that kept her out of the team for a number of months.

“I was using a stretch-band to do some simple flexibility exercise when the band snapped and hit my left eye. It happened so quickly that I had no time to react. At that time, little did I know that the next four months would be the worse phase of my life,” she said.

Reena debuted for the Indian team in 2017 and has been a regular feature in the India midfield ever since. She was part of the Indian team that won the silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games, and she also played the FIH Women’s World Cup earlier that year.

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The injury brought a pause to her progress as surgery had to be done. “Initially the doctor has said it will heal soon but even after a month when the pain was persistent, the doctor then advised surgery to rule out permanent damage to the retina. This news was devastating and all I could think of was whether I will ever play hockey again,” Reena said.

Encouragement by Sjoerd Marijne

Support from family, friends and coaches helped her heal and get ready for a return to hockey. Reena returned to the national camp in July, 2019.

“I was advised two months bed rest and when I returned to the camp chief coach Sjoerd would talk to me regularly to pep me up. He would tell me about a player in Netherlands who played hockey with vision only in one eye. Positive stories like these and emotional support from my parents and some close friends outside of hockey kept me motivated. When I held the stick again, after almost three months, I knew I would do anything to return to the team and I am thankful to the coaching staff who supported me with step-by-step return to full training and didn’t put any kind of pressure,” Reena said.

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To the surprise of many, Reena was available for the FIH Olympic Qualifiers selections as she had made her comeback in the Test Event held in Tokyo in August, 2019. In December, she underwent another corrective surgery, but the danger had passed and Reena now hopes to make the best use of this year to earn a spot in the Tokyo-bound Indian team.

“I got a break in the Indian team quite late. I was around 24 when I made my India debut and my junior India experience is less, so the next one year I will do everything I can do prove myself worthy of a place in the Olympic-bound India squad.”

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