Ecstatic at being nominated for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award by the national federation, the Indian women's hockey team captain Rani on Wednesday said it will motivate her to achieve more at the global stage.
Hockey India on Tuesday also announced the nomination of both Vandana Katariya and Monika from the women's team and Harmanpreet Singh from the men's squad for the Arjuna Award.
"I am overwhelmed that Hockey India has recommended my name for the top award and their continued support always encourages the team and I to do well," Rani, who is a recipient of the Padma Shri Award, said in a press release issued by Hockey India.
"I congratulate both Vandana and Monika, they are very deserving of this recognition. I also feel that two players being nominated goes to show that women's hockey is moving in the right direction and this will only motivate us to do better on the world stage," she added.
The period of consideration for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award is between January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2019.
In this while, Rani led the team to historic victories in the Women's Asia Cup in 2017, silver at the 2018 Asian Games and played a critical role in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers in 2019 by scoring the deciding goal that helped in India's qualification for the Tokyo Olympics.
The Indian team also climbed to a career-best FIH ranking of No.9.
While some of these feats will be cherished by the team for a long time, Rani feels the turning point for her was the team's first-ever appearance at the Olympic Games.
"I personally feel the Rio Olympic Games was a turning point for us. We were dismal in our performance and we knew we had to really work hard if we wanted to do well at the world stage or even at the Asian level.
"Having that singular focus in mind, we started working towards being known as a tough team, a winning team and not as the underdogs," she said without mincing words," she said.
Rani credited coach Sjoerd Marijne for making the team a confident unit.
"Having a brilliant support staff led by Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne who always encouraged us to 'Speak Up and be Bold' started showing in our game. A lot of credit for our success goes to the Support Staff who always backed us no matter what."