It has been a long, hard journey back into the team: Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam

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Bengaluru: Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam has been a regular fixture in the Indian Women’s Hockey team ever since making her debut with the Senior Team in 2009, but two major long-term injuries in 2016 and 2018 played a spoilsport in the Midfielder’s endeavor to represent the country at all major tournaments.

She missed the FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup London 2018 and the Asian Games 2018 due to injury. It was a tough phase for the Manipur-born Midfielder, who opened up about her comeback into the team.

“It has been a long, hard journey back into the team after suffering my second major injury in 2018. It was an important year in terms of the tournaments which were happening, and missing the FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup London 2018, Asian Games 2018 and the AHF Women’s Champions Trophy was a major blow for me psychologically. They were all major tournaments and any player would want to represent the country at such events, but it wasn’t meant to be. However, now I have the chance to stay fit and keep performing for my country,” said Sushila Chanu.

The half-back Captained the Indian Women’s Hockey Team at the Rio Olympics 2016 where the team was returning to the competition after a gap of 36 years, but it was not an easy task for Sushila as she had just suffered an injury to her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) at the start of that year.

However, the fighter that Sushila is, she recovered from the injury in quick time to make it to the Indian squad for the prestigious quadrennial event. “I think 2016 was probably the hardest year for me towards the start because it was the year of the Olympic Games, and it had always been my dream to represent the country at the Olympics. But with the hard work put in by the medical staff in my recovery, I was able to make it to the team, and was bestowed with the huge honour of captaining the side. I still can remember that feeling when I was leading the team out in our first match of the Olympics, it was unbelievable,” expressed Sushila.

Sushila, 27, was also the Captain of the Junior Indian Women’s Team which bagged the Bronze Medal at the Junior Women’s Hockey World Cup in Mönchengladbach in 2013, and she recalls it as one of the best moments of her career.

“I think the Bronze Medal at the Junior World Cup in Germany was the best moment for me so far in my career. We beat England in the shoot-out in the Bronze Medal match. We were all very happy with the performance, but the best thing about that win was that it gave our entire team the belief that we could beat anyone,” said Sushila who began playing hockey at the Posterior Hockey Academy, Manipur in 2003.

Looking forward to the upcoming challenges, Sushila said she is determined than ever to make it to next year’s Olympics. “I have missed a lot of tournaments in the recent past, but I am very determined now to be a part of the Indian team, and help my team in achieving our goals. The first upcoming test for us will be the Tour of England where we will be playing against a strong Great Britain team. After that, we will have the all-important FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers Odisha where we face USA, so we will be focusing on preparing well, and producing our best collective performances in the upcoming two months, ” Sushila signed off.

The Indian Women’s Hockey Team is scheduled to play five matches against a strong Great Britain team in Marlow, England from 27th September – 4th October 2019, and will be departing the country on Sunday evening.

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