Vandana Katariya created her piece of history at the Olympics when she became the first Indian woman hockey player to score a hat-trick at the Games.
The forward from Uttar Pradesh netted thrice as India edged out South Africa 4-3 to help her team earn a crucial victory that kept their quarter-final chances alive.
After, she was modest about her feat.
“This is a team game, the whole team works for goals. How can I claim credit for the goals today. Am happy we have won, not because I could score” Katariya said.
While hockey is a sport where success is not dependent on a single individual, Katariya’s performances over the years for the Indian team have had a big impact on the team’s fortunes, just like in Tokyo.
At 29, Katariya is a veteran in the Indian hockey team with 245 appearances, just one less than captain Rani Rampal. With 67 goals to her name, only captain Rampal has scored more goals for the Indian team among the current lot.
Katariya’s first appearance on the national scene was in 2006 when she was picked for the junior national team. In four years, she was able to progress through the ranks and earn her first senior cap.
But the first major achievement in Katariya’s career came in 2013 when she helped India win a bronze medal at the 2013 Junior World Cup, where she also was the top scorer.
A year later at the Commonwealth Games, she made her 100th appearance for the Indian senior side and was adjudged as the winner of the Hockey India Player of the year award in 2014.
Building on a successful year, Katariya scored eleven times as India won the Round 2 of the 2014-’15 FIH Hockey World League.
In 2016, when the Indian team qualified for the Olympics after over three decades, Katariya played a key role and was among the senior members of the team in Rio. The results at the Games didn’t quite go India’s way but Katariya and the team bounced back a year later winning silver medal at the 2017 Asian Champions Trophy. Katariya was named the best player in that tournament.
Beating financial troubles
However, the veteran had to overcome a lot of financial difficulties to reach the national level.
Katariya’s father was a master technician at the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited in Haridwar and found it hard it finance Katariya’s hockey career. A hockey enthusiast himself, he wanted her child to take up the sport but due to financial difficulties had to initially dissuade Katariya from further pursuing her dreams. He later managed to arrange money from different sources and fund her.
However, in 2009 Katariya was excluded from the national camp. The exclusion was hard to take for Katariya and she was in two minds about continuing her hockey career or going back home to lend financial support to her father.
But in 2010, she was called up to represent the senior team and all their efforts finally paid off. She hasn’t looked back since and is now one of the greats in Indian women’s hockey.
After years of consistent performances, the hat-trick at the Olympics was a just reward for her efforts. Women’s hockey had precious little history at the Olympics, Vandana Katariya has changed that.
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