New Delhi, Nov 27 (IANS): Sunelita Toppo, the 16-year-old sensation who has been turning heads for a while, is set to play as a forward for India in the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023, which will take place in Santiago, Chile. She is thrilled to have the chance to showcase her skills on the world stage.
Sunelita, who was unfamiliar with the sport until she witnessed a few women playing it for the first time at a festival in her village, said, "I developed a strong liking for the sport the moment I watched those women play. I expressed my desire to play to my father, and he introduced me to the coach from the nearby area."
Sunelita began playing hockey at the SAI Training Centre (STC) in Sundargarh, which offers residential training and coaching in various sports, including hockey. Recalling the obstacles she faced, she said, "When I first started playing hockey, I did not have proper sticks. I had to resort to playing with bamboo sticks. However, later on, a relative came to my rescue with the necessary equipment after learning about my passion for hockey."
In 2018, she suffered a shoulder injury, but her support staff helped her deal with it, and she learned how to adapt her game to prevent future injuries. She represented Odisha in the National Games in Gujarat in 2022, and following her impressive performance, she was selected for the National Camp.
Sunelita made her debut for the Indian Junior Women's Hockey Team at the Junior Women's Asia Cup in 2023. Despite being only 16 years old, she also received a call-up for the Senior Women's National Coaching Camp due to her excellent performance in 2023.
While Sunelita has played at the centre-half position, she prefers playing forward. Her goal is to win the Gold medal for India at the Junior Women's Hockey World Cup, which commences on the 29th November and finishes on the 10th December. India will kick off their campaign against Canada on November 29 at 2330hrs IST.
"I feel honoured to be a part of the squad for the FIH Hockey Women's Junior World Cup 2023. It will be a great opportunity for me to represent my country on the big stage. Our team comprises some of the best players who have performed exceptionally well over the past year. We have gained invaluable experience from competing in various tournaments, and we are confident that this will help us perform to the best of our abilities in the tournament," she said.
"The tournament will feature top teams from around the world, and we are eager to showcase our prowess against them. The dressing room is buzzing with excitement, and we are all looking forward to the start of the tournament. Our aim is to achieve positive results and earn a podium finish," Sunelita concluded.