It was a significant moment for all the Northeastern people when Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam from Manipur was appointed as the captain of Indian women’s hockey team that has qualified for the first time in 36 years to play in Rio Olympics 2016.
Born on 25 February 1992 to Pukhrambam Shyamsundar and Pukhrambam Ongbi Lata, Chanu comes from very humble backgrounds in Imphal, Manipur. Her father is a driver and her mother a homemaker. Her great grandfather Pukhrambam Angangcha was a famous polo player of his time. Chanu’s first encounter with live sports came at the age of seven when she witnessed a football match during the 1999 National Games that were hosted in Manipur. Her family members being sports lovers encouraged her to take up sports. However, Sushila picked up her first hockey stick at the age of 11 with encouragement from her uncle and that she actively became involved in sports.
Within a few years, young Sushila began to demonstrate her inborn skills and took part in Inter-school National Tournament, Sub-junior National Tournament and Junior National Tournament. With dreams in her eyes, Chanu began nurturing her immense talent by undergoing rigorous training at the Posterior Hockey Academy, Manipur (PHAM) in the year 2003. Her passion and drive for the game were soon noted. The soft spoken midfielder has always shown immense dedication to the game, paying great importance to detail, specially her fitness. During that time, Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy, Gwalior was looking for junior players to groom them for International competitions. As Sushila’s talent was well witnessed at National tournaments by the selectors, she was chosen for the first batch of the academy in 2006. Since then, there was no looking back and her selection in Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy, Gwalior turned out to be a turning point in her career. She received hockey training as well as education at the academy for four years. When she was at the academy, Sushila represented Madhya Pradesh in National tournaments.
The promising Sushila made her junior international debut at the U-21 Asia Cup 2008 in Malaysia wherein India were adjudged third place. After U-19 Asia Cup Hockey Tournament held in China in 2009, Sushila could not find a place in the National squad due to fitness issues for a quite long period of time. However, she did not lose hard and kept on working hard. In 2010 she joined Central Railways, Mumbai as Junior TC as she passed out from Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy, Gwalior. At last, she was again brought back to India’s senior team where she started to show her potential and helped the team get the bronze medals in two consecutive editions of the Four-Nations Hockey Championship in 2011 and 2012. She was also part of the National team at 6th Junior Women Asia Cup, Bangkok, Thailand in 2012 wherein India was adjudged runners’ up.
Her biggest achievement as a junior came in 2013 when she captained the team to a bronze medal finish at the Junior World Cup held in Monchengladbach, Germany. Since 2013, she started playing full-fledged for the senior national team. Sushila has also taken part in the 3rd Women’s Asian Champions Trophy, Kakamighara, Japan in 2013 where India won silver medal. In 2014, she was part of the Indian team which won bronze at 17th Asian Games held at Incheon, Korea. Soon after, she made her international debut and her impact on the Indian defense led to the team reaching the semis of the 2015 Hockey World League. Her ultimate dream has always been to be an Olympian and she got a chance to realize her dream when the Indian team qualified for the Rio Games by virtue of finishing fifth at the Hockey World League last year. The 24-year old then captained the women’s senior team at the four-nation tournament in Australia that was held in May. However, Sushila faced a setback with a major knee injury that could have ended with a knee reconstruction surgery. But with proper focus on developing her strength through a strict regimen of exercise and physiotherapy, she overcame it to return to competition in eight weeks time.
Sushila has always been in a constant fixture for the Indian team and has also been rewarded for her outstanding performance and consistent plays. Being a productive junior and now a veteran of 112 international matches, the Manipur-born girl has already proved her credentials many times by showing numerous examples of her dedication and passion towards her game. Thus on 16 July, 2016, Sushila was named as the captain of the Indian women’s hockey team to lead and take part in Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.