Indian women’s hockey team skipper Rani believes the upcoming Khelo India University Games will help in unearthing raw sporting talents from across the country. Rani, who was recently conferred with India’s fourth-highest civilian recognition – Padma Shri Award, lauded the government’s initiative, saying it will yield rich dividends for the country in future. In Khelo India University Games to be held in Bhubaneswar from February 22 to March 1, a total of eight men’s and as many women’s teams will be vying for top honours in hockey.

The 25-year-old had earlier reposed faith in her side to perform well at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics 2020. She feels confident that India women’s team has it in them to win a medal in the world’s biggest sporting fest. “I firmly believe that the Khelo India University Games is a great initiative by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. They (the ministry) first started the Khelo India Youth Games and now the Khelo India Universities Games, which is really amazing when you look from the global perspective,” Rani said.

“Majority of the athletes in other countries play sports internationally after playing at least some form of university-level games, and now that we are implementing similar strategies here in India, we will be able to find many more talented players at the university level, just like we are finding talented youth via the Khelo India Youth Games.

“There is a lot of raw, young talent across our country, who may be not able to dedicate themselves fully to their favourite sport. But Khelo India University Games will give them a platform to perform, and show their raw talent,” she added.

Rani, who is currently pursuing her MA in English from the Punjabi University, Patiala, said she will be supporting her University team.

“It is amazing to see that Punjabi University is also taking part in the women’s category. I am doing MA from there, and I will be cheering for the girls when they take the field in Bhubaneswar later this month,” said Rani, who recently also bagged ‘The World Games Athlete of the Year 2019’ award.

Along with the Punjabi University, Patiala, the women’s hockey category at the Khelo India University Games 2020 will also see seven other teams — Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak; Ranchi University, Ranchi; ITM, Gwalior; Mysore University, Mysore; Sambalpur University, Odisha; Gurunanak Dev University, Amritsar; and Mangalore University, Karnataka taking part.

Earlier, Rani lauded the fitness levels and said that the side can compete with anyone at the international stage.

“Everyone is expecting good things from our side in the Tokyo Olympics. We as a team have performed very well in the recent past. You play sport because you want to play the Olympics. Every athlete wants to represent their country in the Olympics, we as a team are confident of bringing a medal in the global event,” Rani said.