Gurjit Kaur continues to make waves two months after her memorable goal against Australia at the Tokyo Olympics. It was the lone goal of the match and helped her side reach the Olympic semi-finals for the very first time.
She also finished as the joint top-scorer alongside forward Vandana Katariya. Fast forward to Wednesday, India’s star drag-flicker was adjudged FIH Women's Player of the Year.
Gurjit Kaur won the award ahead of Dutch stars Eva de Goede and Frédérique Matla. The Netherlands hockey players finished second and third respectively.
The Punjab-born Indian Hockey player received 35.86% of National Associations votes, 50.76% of Media votes and 64.89% of the Fans/Players votes to win the International Hockey Federation's award.
However, Gurjit Kaur's path to such lofty heights had been anything but easy.
Gurjit Kaur’s Hockey journey began in Amritsar
Gurjit Kaur was born into a farming family. Her parents Satnam Singh and Harjinder Kaur were insistent that their daughters go to school. Gurjit Kaur's parents' determination to provide their children with a proper education was so strong that despite the presence of a government school in the village, they chose a private school in Ajnala.
Satnam would take them to school, which was 13 kilometres away, on a bicycle and would wait until classes ended. However, after suggestions from relatives, Gurjit Kaur's parents decided to enroll both the sisters into a boarding school.
It was there that her hockey journey began.
Gurjit Kaur and her sister Pradeep were admitted into a boarding school in Kairon – one of the oldest hockey academies in Punjab. Initially, hockey was a pastime for the sisters but they soon caught the eye of their coaches.
The duo quickly understood how playing at national and international levels would help them support their parents. Pradeep went on to become a national-level hockey player while Gurjit Kaur would soon light up the international stage.
Gurjit Kaur’s first India call-up
Gurjit Kaur received her first India call-up in 2014. It, however, took her another three years to cement her place in the Indian women’s hockey team. But once she did, there was no looking back.
She burst onto the scene at the 2017 Asia Cup, scoring eight goals, which made her the highest goal-scorer in the continental event.
However, it was under Dutch coach Sjoerd Marijne that Gurjit Kaur became a star. The Dutchman helped her resolve her issue with penalty corners.
In an interview with The Tribune, Gurjit Kaur revealed the stick she used earlier felt light and didn’t allow her to generate too much power in her shots. During a trip to Holland, Marijne asked her to drag-flick with a different stick and that changed everything for the young Indian star.
Gurjit Kaur now turns her attention to the Asian Games that are scheduled to be held next year.