Sjoerd Marijne ensured all-round improvement of the Indian women's team - E. Rajani

The goalkeeper says Sjoerd Marijne helped shape the Indian women's team into a well-rounded outfit that nearly won bronze at the Tokyo Games.

E. Rajani (left) with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy in Amaravathi on Wednesday (August 11).

E. Rajani, a member of the Indian women’s hockey team which made it to the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics, was relieved when the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, directed officials to ensure that the 1000-square yard house site allotted to her in Tirupati was removed from the ‘prohibited land’ category.

The 30-year-old Rajani, who met the Chief Minister on Wednesday (August 11) in Amaravati informed Sportstar that the officials concerned were asked by him to ensure that the process is completed.

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“It was originally allotted in 2016 but for some reasons which we don’t know was bracketed in the prohibited area. When I broached the subject, the respected CM gaaru spontaneously issued directions to change it. He also gave me ₹40,000 per month as cash incentive besides a cash prize of ₹25 lakhs for the team's performance in the Tokyo Olympics.

“This, apart from a job to one of my family members. I am grateful to him,” said Rajani, who is also a Central Railway employee.

Reflecting on her experience at the Tokyo Games, Rajani, a goalkeeper who has represented India since 2009 - including in the Asian Games, the World Cup, and the Rio Olympics - said the performance of the women’s team was just what the sport badly needed to get the desired support from all quarters.

Sjoerd Marijne 'too good'

“It was a great feeling to be on the bench though I was not in the first XI right through the Games, being the reserve goalkeeper, and hats off to my team-mate and custodian Savita Punia for such a terrific performance,” she said.

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“Yes, the focus for us now shifts to the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games, and the World Cup. We are a much better side now with all-round improvement, thanks to the coach Sjoerd Marijne, who was just too good,” Rajani said, accompanied by the Andhra Pradesh Women’s Hockey Secretary, A. Prasanna Kumar Reddy.

“All the efforts of continuous training even during the pandemic in SAI Centre in Bengaluru helped us a lot in gelling a complete unit,” said the India goalkeeper, who is the second daughter (of three) of Ramanachari, a carpenter.

“I am sure with the CM Jagan Mohan Reddy gaaru insisting that a new Sports Policy be drafted for Andhra Pradesh with the specific intent of grooming young talent across the State in the remotest areas, many gifted talents would be unearthed in different disciplines,” she concluded.

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