Wrong turn to right spot 

Mizo girl in golden team; Sonowal upgrades sport infrastructure 

By Avishek Sengupta
  • Published 12.02.16
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Ruat Feli Hnialum in action at the South Asian Games. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, Feb. 11: Little did 22-year-old Mizoram girl Ruat Feli Hnialum know that a “mistake” in 2006 would land her in Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Hniulam, one of the trusted midfielders in India’s women’s hockey team that qualified for the Rio Olympics, played her first international match in the 12th South Asian Games at Maulana Md

Tayebulla Hockey Stadium here against Nepal on Sunday, where India mauled their neighbour 24-0.

Later, Hniulam confessed that hockey was not her first choice. “Initially, I was very interested in football. So much so that when I was in class VI in 2006, I went to join a football coaching camp. By mistake, instead of walking into the football training centre, I stepped into a hockey training centre and someone handed me a hockey stick. I thought of giving it a try and got hooked to the game,” said Hnialum.

As many as three out of the 24 goals on Sunday were netted through measured passes by Hnialum, who wears a number 4 jersey. She was also instrumental in scoring two other goals against Sri Lanka on Monday in which India beat the latter 12-0.

“Now the hockey stick has become a part of my body. I wanted to play with my feet, but instead, I am playing a game in which I will foul if I touch the ball with my feet. It’s quite ironic,” Hnialum said.

Hnialum will be the first from her state to make it to the Indian squad that has qualified for the Olympics after four decades. The last time India qualified was in 1980 in the summer Olympics in Russia.

Hnialum is accompanied by Manipur’s Pukhrambam Sushila Chanu and Mayengbam Lily Chanu from the Northeast in the team. Chanu, who was also one of the midfielders in the South Asian Games squad, said she was confident of bringing laurels to the nation.

“Our team is quite strong and we have trained really hard to play in the Rio Olympics. Manipur has a long line up of hockey players in the Indian team. Since we got the opportunity to play in Rio, we will leave no stone unturned,” Chanu, who was the captain of the India’s junior women’s hockey team that clinched gold in 7th FIH Junior World Cup in Monche-ngladbach, Germany, in 2013, said. After the Games, the team will leave for its South Africa tour on February 20.