Sushila Chanu was recently given the big responsibility of leading the Indian women’s hockey team at the upcoming Rio Olympics in August. However, this is not the first time that she led the team.
Being a prolific junior and now a veteran of 112 international matches, the Manipur-born girl has already proved her credentials many times. The half-back, who is also employed as a junior ticket collector at the Central Mumbai Railway since 2010, has given numerous examples of her dedication and passion towards her game.
Here are 10 things you need to know about Sushila Chanu:
1. On February 25, 1992, Chanu was born to Pukhrambam Shyamsundar, who is a driver and his homemaker wife Pukhrambam Ongbi Lata. Being born in the state of Manipur that has produced the likes of world champion boxers Mary Kom and Sarita Devi among others, it was thus no surprise she was naturally inclined to sports from a young age.
2. Chanu’s first brush with live sports came at the age of seven when she witnessed a football match during the National Games that was held in her state in 1999. Her family members being sports lovers, encouraged her to take up sports. But it was not until the age of 11 that she actively became involved in sports when she picked up her first hockey stick.
Having watched statemates Surajlata Devi, Sanggai Chanu and Tingonleima Chanu playing their hearts out for the Indian Tricolour, she soon found her calling in the stick sport.
3. With dreams in her eyes, Chanu began nurturing her immense talent at the Posterior Hockey Academy, Manipur (PHAM) in the year 2003. Her passion and drive for the game were soon noted and four years later, Sushila switched to the Madhya Pradesh Women Hockey Academy in Gwalior to fine-tune her skills further.
4. The promising Sushila made her junior international debut the very next year at the U-21 Asia Cup in Malaysia. She soon started to show her potential and helped the team get the bronze medals in two consecutive editions of the Four-Nations Hockey Championship in 2011 and 2012.
5. Her biggest achievement as a junior came in 2013 when she captained the team to a bronze medal finish at the Junior World Cup held in Monchengladbach, Germany.
b Since 2013, she started playing full-fledged for the senior national team. The defender’s contributions were invaluable during India’s fabulous show at the2015 Hockey World League where they reached the semi-finals.
7. Chanu’s ultimate dream has always been to be an Olympian and she got a chance to realize her dream when the Indian team qualified for the Rio Games by virtue of finishing fifth at the Hockey World League last year. This was just the second time that the Indian women will be at the Olympics after finishing fourth in 1980 where they were on invitation.
8. The 24-year-old faced one of her sternest tests soon after that. At the beginning of this year, Chanu injured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and it almost needed a reconstruction surgery. But the brave and resilient girl fought back admirably. With proper focus on developing her strength through a strict regimen of exercise and physiotherapy, she overcame it to return to competition in eight weeks time.
9. While Ritu Rani was rested, Sushila was rewarded with a captaincy stint in May when she led the Indian squad during a four-nation tournament in Darwin, Australia.
10. July, 12, 2016 turned out to be one of the biggest days of Chanu’s career as she was appointed the captain of the 16-member Indian team for the Rio Olympics.
“I am really happy but I am little tensed as well because it is a big responsibility to lead the side in the Olympics after 36 years, but I have been a captain at the junior level and have got a lot of support. I am getting a lot of support here as well. So I think I won’t have any problems.”