I want to play in the Olympics and win a gold medal for my country, says 16-year-old Sunelita Toppo
16-year-old Sunelita Toppo – who has made steady progress in the ranks of the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team in recent years – took a significant step in her development when she made it to the Hockey India Senior Women National Coaching Camp in April 2023.
Young forward Sunelita hails from Kukuda village in Sundargarh, which is the second largest and mineral-rich district of Odisha and also the home to several tribes with one thing common across villages – hockey. Notably, 90 percent of Odisha’s hockey players come from Sundargarh, so, it was pretty natural for Sunelita to pick up the hockey stick and she did the same at the age of eight.
“Most of the people in my village play hockey and they even organise local hockey tournaments there, which I found fascinating and eventually decided to take up the sport at the age of eight,” she said. “However, I never thought of becoming a professional player back then and played hockey just to enjoy the game,” she added.
Like many young emerging players from this region, Sunelita too comes from a humble background. Her father is a farmer, while her mother is a homemaker. Hence, the road to becoming a professional hockey player was not easy for the young forward, but her never-say-die spirit and family support helped her get admission into SAI Training Centre (STC) in Sundargarh, which provides residential training and coaching in numerous sports including hockey.
“Due to financial constraints, I had to face numerous issues in my journey of becoming a professional hockey player, but my family believed in me, they backed me and also provided moral support throughout which is why I am at this stage today,” Sunelita said.
After getting into STC, there was no looking back for Sunelita as she made it to the Junior Women’s Team, where she impressed many with her good performances consistently, which ultimately helped her get into Hockey India Senior Women National Coaching Camp.
Revealing her success mantra, Sunelita said that it was her coach’s simple but important advice that changed her life for good. “My coach told me that my game is good but it’s the hard work that makes a person successful. So, that’s the advice I’m following till now and that’s why I always aim to work hard and give my hundred percent in anything I do,” she said.
When asked about her ultimate goal as a player, Sunelita said, “I want to play in the Olympics and win a gold medal for my country.”