GUWAHATI, June 11 - Despite missing out on some of the major events, Sushila Chanu, who made her comeback into the Indian women�s hockey team feels the injury only made her much stronger.
The former captain who led the side at the 2016 Rio Olympics suffered long-term injuries in 2018 and was out of the side which featured at the FIH Women�s Hockey World Cup in London and the Asian Games.
Talking about her comeback, Chanu said: �2018 was very tough for me because I had my second major injury, and it was an important year for our team because we had the World Cup and the Asian Games. I also missed the AHF Women�s Champions Trophy, so it was difficult to witness from the sidelines, but I think it made me stronger. Mentally, it was really demotivating because every player wants to represent their country in the biggest tournaments, but unfortunately, I wasn�t in the best of shape.
�The hard work put in by the medical staff into my recovery was something I really value, and I was fortunate to have my family and friends who always used to support me. I would focus on thinking positively and making sure I was working on my rehab and recovery to come back as soon as possible. Thankfully 2019 was better and I could make my way back into the team.�
With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc in sporting activities around the globe, Chanu�s main focus has been fitness during the lockdown.
�I think it has been really different from usual, but still, for our team it has been very similar because we are used to staying in the camp for long periods. I think credit must go to the SAI and Hockey India for taking good care of us here in SAI, Bengaluru, and ensuring that the environment is very safe for us.
�I was focusing on just making sure I was fit throughout so as to ensure good fitness levels even upon resumption.�
Hockey wasn�t her first choice as she was also into football and boxing but it was perhaps the presence of the turf and the guidance of her uncle and aunt that her journey with the stick started.
�I was only 11 years old when I started playing hockey. It was my uncle who encouraged me to take up the sport. So I started playing locally first where we used to have a turf. Before I started hockey at the Posterior Hockey Academy in 2003, I was also into football and boxing, so you can say that I was always interested in sports. I happened to choose hockey because we had a turf and also I was guided by my aunt, who was the only hockey player from my family.�
Recalling her journey from Manipur to the Indian national team, the former skipper said: �I think it was really difficult at first because after having started off aged 11, I decided to quit playing it by the age of 12 because I failed to make it to the sub-junior team of Manipur which was supposed to participate in the Northeast Sports Festival tournament. I was put in the stand-by list, so it broke my heart. However, I only decided to come back to the sport after my seniors and coaches who came to my house to convince my parents that I should continue to play.
�I worked hard after that and in 2007 shifted to Gwalior to train with the Madhya Pradesh Women Hockey Academy. It was there that I actually started to have the self-belief and got into the junior India camp. I made my debut the next year at the U-21 Women�s Asia Cup in Malaysia where our team won the bronze medal. My progress was good after that and I happened to play with the senior team as well, but the highlight and the turning point was the 2013 Junior Women�s World Cup where we bagged the bronze medal under my captaincy.�