There are many examples of girls taking up sport as an escape from brutal realities. Neha Goyal, the Indian hockey player from Sonipat, Haryana, is one. Goyal’s father, a jobless alcoholic, would frequently get violent at home. The hockey ground, on the other hand, offered a release from trauma. Other incentives included free clothing and two meals a day. Therefore, sometime around 2008, Neha signed up for a coaching programme run by former India women’s player, Pritam Siwach.
Now, the 25-year-old Goyal, all of 4’9”, is a regular for India, including at the Tokyo Olympics, where the Indian women earned respect with a spirited fourth place finish, and the Commonwealth Games, where they won the bronze. “My family was quite poor,” Goyal said. “My father was an alcoholic, most of the time he wouldn’t even be at home. My mom used to take care of the house on her own.” Goyal’s mother, Savitri Devi, abused by night, would work as a domestic maid and take up odd jobs, including at a cycle factory. At one point, Goyal and her two sisters also joined the cycle plant, and together earned around Rs 2,000 a month.