Meet India’s first all women’s Ice Hockey team, from a small village in Leh, which is trying hard to break the mould of stereotypical sports promotion
Do you know that India has an all-women’s Ice Hockey team?
While for most in country the sport might be alien, but in a nestled corner of the Himalayas, there is a group of girls devoted to the ‘other’ Hockey played on ice.
Skating on a frozen pond in Gupuks, Leh, in the middle of the Himalayas, you will find an all women team who found their passion in this unconventional sport. These women have proved they love this sport too much to give up. For them, Ice Hockey is what Cricket is for the rest of the country. Last year, the team went on to participate for the first time in an international competition in Taipei. Even though they returned from the 2016 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia without a win, there were many positives. This relatively young Indian team came close to beating Malaysia in the group stages, and Noor Jahan, a member of the team, was even awarded the tournament’s Best Goaltender Award after saving 193 shots from a possible 229.
But, this achievement has not been easy. Without funds, a proper rink, or training equipment, they are on an incessant battle with many hardships. Last year, the girls prepared an ice rink on their own. They would fill in buckets of water, every day from 8 PM to 3 AM in groups of four, to create a frozen pond. The water was so cold that even a small amount of water that splashed on their clothes would freeze. While even thinking of being outdoors at that time in the Himalayas would normally give us the chills, these girls were determined not to let any obstacle thaw their grit and ambitions. Another problem, that is stopping their growth, is the lack of funding. To receive funding from the government, the sport needs 75% affiliate member states, which is difficult at the moment. There is an artificial rink in Dehradun, but with no caretaker or money to maintain it, it lies neglected.
The girls compensate these challenges with their determination to succeed in the sport. Stanzin Chotso, the youngest member of the team is a great example of it. Last year, when the team went to Taipei, Stanzin was supposed to appear for her board examinations. But the 17-year-old decided to skip her Class 10th examinations and join the team in what was their first international competition. While we often forgo our passions for our educational needs, Chotso’s decision to forgo her board examinations only shows the importance that this sport holds in her heart and the belief that she has in it. Semzes Dolma, another member of the team, will appear for her 12th standard board examinations next year but is valiantly juggling her studies with a regular practice of Ice Hockey.
With their future at stake, the Ice Hockey Association of India has been trying to build an Ice Hockey culture amongst the next generation. More importantly, to get recognition to build the winter sports future in our country, to create more sporting opportunities for women, break stereotypes and to build more platforms for unconventional sports. Apart from Ice Hockey, the team’s best players Rinchen Dolma, Kunzes Angmo and Disket Angmo also excel in speed skating at national and international levels.
While dreaming big always remains a dream for most of us, these bunch of women is fighting hard to make their dreams are a reality. Today, they represent every sportsperson who couldn’t make it big, every dream that couldn’t be fulfilled, every aspiration that didn’t get wings, and every passion that couldn’t be funded. To back the team up, The Ice Hockey Association of India has started online crowd funding campaign. You can support them to achieve their dreams by contributing here.
GITANJALI BORA | KETTO
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