India’s Lalremsiami has been named as the 2019 FIH Women’s Rising Star of the Year, the International Hockey Federation announced on Monday. The 19-year-old attacker took the prize ahead of Argentina’s Julieta Jankunas and Frederique Matla of the Netherlands, who finished second and third respectively.
Indian striker Lalremsiami first came into the wider hockey consciousness at the Hockey Women’s World Cup in 2018 when she was one of the stand-out players at that tournament. Since then the 19-year-old has been at the heart of the rise of the Indian team as they have cemented their spot in the world’s top 10 teams over the past two years.
Since making her debut in 2017 in a test series against Belarus, Lalremsiami has made a name for herself as a striker of phenomenal ability. Twice in her short senior career she has been Top Goalscorer – in a test series against Korea in 2017 and against Spain in 2019.
At the Tokyo event, which took place in August 2019, Lalremsiami scored the winning goal in the final against Japan. Over the course of that event, India drew with Australia, who were ranked at number two in the world, as well as drawing with Asian rivals China.
However, the two events that really made India and Lalremsiami’s year - at either end of the emotional scale – were the competitions leading to qualification for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. At the FIH Series Finals in Hiroshima, India beat off opposition from eight other teams all craving a place in the Olympic Qualifiers. India held their nerve and took top spot, setting up a double header against USA. Tragically for Lalremsiami, her father died during the course of that event, but the young athlete played on, despite her grief.
Later she said: “I wanted to make my father proud. I wanted to stay, play and make sure India qualified.”
The Olympic Qualifier matches against USA were enthralling encounters. India took a 5-1 lead in the first of two matches, but USA fought back to win the second match 4-1. Lalremsiami didn’t feature among the goals in those two matches but her constant running and creativity helped put the USA defence under pressure, allowing captain Rani to score the decisive goal that sent India to Tokyo.
Lalremsiami’s achievements are all the more remarkable considering that she hails from a small, agricultural community in the state of Mizoram. As a teenager, Lalremsiami left home to join the hockey academy at Thenzawi, 150 kilometres from her home.
Quoted on the Olympic Channel, Lalremsiami said: “Hockey isn’t very famous in my village; very few people played the sport. However, I was always interested in playing hockey so I had to move to Thenzawl, which was very far from my village so I had to move into their hostel in my early teenage years. Initially, there weren’t the best of facilities there, we did not have a [artificial] turf ground so we used to play on grass.”