For both the Asian Games as well as the Asian Para Games, Gold medal winners will receive a cash reward of Rs 25 lakh each, Silver medal winners Rs 15 lakh each and Bronze medal winners Rs 10 lakh each.
Ecstatic at being picked as one of the drag-flickers in the Indian women’s hockey team for the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, Hisar girl Deepika said the selection call came as a sweet surprise for her family, who she claimed has been supportive of her career decision despite all the outside noise in conservative societies.
Deepika’s foray into the sport is a story in itself as the drag flicker picked up a hockey stick in 2012 on her way to wrestling practice with her brother, and after years of hard work, she has eventually risen through the ranks to make it to the national women’s hockey team.
“My family has always been supportive of my hockey career; even though a lot was said about me when I first started playing, my father never let it reach my ears,” the 19-year-old said of her early hockey days, before adding, “And after my first sub-junior National Championships in 2017, they started motivating me even more, their belief in me was visible.”
Deepika’s initial appearance with the junior Indian women’s hockey team as a forward was to the Youth Olympic Qualifiers in March 2018. She has since competed in the FIH hockey women’s junior World Cup 2021 in Potchefstroom, South Africa, where her team finished fourth, as well as the women’s junior Asia Cup team, where India won gold.
“With everyone vying for a spot, I never expected to make the team, and I was ecstatic when I found out. It’s my first time going to a big tournament, and I was a little nervous at first, but chief coach Janneke Schopman and the senior players have kept me grounded,” she said on getting named in the Asian Games squad.
“My father has had a few sleepless nights since he found out, I suppose because he can’t believe it’s actually happening, but seeing him as happy as a child when he was in Bengaluru for the send-off ceremony was very fulfilling. He himself said he didn’t think I’d be chosen, but he is extremely proud of everything I’m accomplishing,” she added.
Deepika, who scored seven goals in six games at the women’s junior Asia Cup, credited the presence of former India drag flicker Rupinder Pal Singh in the camp for working on the technical aspect of her ga“We’ve been working on drag flicking with Rupinder Pal Singh in camp for a few days now; he’s got us working on beating the first rusher, showing us where the ball can be stopped, and how to release if the ball is stopped on the sides. All of this help will undoubtedly help me in match situations during the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou,” the teenager said.
The prospect of being one of the handy drag flick options in the side for the Asian Games excites Deepika, and hopes to contribute to India’s show at the continental event.
“I don’t feel under pressure to score by flicking, all the players let me focus on my skill and encourage me to keep the shot on goal as much as I can,” she said when asked if she feels pressured while taking penalty corners.
The Indian women’s hockey team is placed in Pool A for the Asian Games and will face Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong China, and Singapore in the group stage.