Odia Girls Put Up A Stunning Show At The Asian Rugby Sevens Trophy!
Odia sportswomen continue their stellar performance in the International arena, the latest being six rugby players from the state who were part of the Indian Rugby Women’s Team that bagged a silver in the Asian Rugby Sevens Trophy. The Asian Rugby Sevens Trophy which was held at Vientiane, Laos, witnessed the participation of seven countries including South Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Nepal, Pakistan, India and the host country Laos.
Out of six matches, India won five and lost one to South Korea. The seven countries played on a round robin basis. On day one, India defeated Laos by 22-7, Philippines by 12-5, Nepal by 43-0 and Malaysia by 26-12. On the second day, India defeated Pakistan by 5-0 but was beaten by South Korea by 29-0.
Out of the 12 players in the team, six of them were from Odisha – Subhalaxmi Barik , Laxmipriya Sahoo, Sanjukta Munda, Meerarani Hembram, Hupi Majhi and Bhagyalaxmi Barik. According to the tournament statistics, Hupi Majhi was one of the top three try scorers of the tournament and Meerarani Hembram was the third highest in the conversions. My City Links caught up with Meerarani Hembram to know about her journey and performance of the Indian team.
Tell us about your background?
I am a student of KISS, Plus Three first year. My father passed away during my Sri Lanka tour in 2016 and my mother passed away in 1999. Right now, in my family, including me, there are five brothers and sisters. The eldest is my brother, who supports the entire family financially, by doing small jobs in the village. Apart from that, I get Rs. 25,000 by playing rugby which helps in managing the household finance. The financial condition of my family is weak and everyone contributes in whichever way they can.
What do you think is the scope for women’s rugby in Odisha?
Rugby is Odisha is mostly played by women. We have won three gold medals in the past few matches. Recently, the government has started looking into how we are going to get jobs so that we can improve our skills and get better in this sport. Our foundation is strong which helps us while playing the game.
India won silver at Asian Rugby Sevens Trophy. Which country gave India a tough competition?
South Korea gave us a tough competition on the final day and defeated us by 29-0. I think one of the main advantages they had was that they were heavily built and very bulky and tall. We, on the other hand, weigh light and are short.
How did you first get interested in rugby?
I started playing rugby at a very young age. When the players from England used to come and play here, we would see them and get inspired to play better. Our coach, Rudra sir has always supported us and done everything possible in his capacity so that we can perform better.
Out of 24 hours in a day, how many hours do you dedicate to rugby?
All of us practice together for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening.
What has been the role of your family in your journey?
I started playing rugby at a very young age of around 11 or 12 and everyone in my family has been very supportive. No one in my family has ever asked me not to play. When my father was alive, he also encouraged me to play. Although none of our relatives in the village has been in touch with us since my father passed away, they have started looking out for us.
Odisha is generally considered a backward and poor state by people outside. Have you faced any kind of discrimination because of this?
No, we have not faced any such situation. KIIT has been very supportive and our base is very strong. Hence, we have never faced any kind of discrimination.
What do you have to say about the facilities in Odisha considering the fact that you have had exposure to both national and international facilities now?
Obviously the facilities abroad are much better but those back home are also improving due to help from the state government.
Tell us something about your coach.
From a very young age, our coach Rudra Sir has trained us. Apart from him, there are other coaches too, who keep changing. But Rudra Sir has been very supportive and has taught us most of what we know today.
How do you balance studies with rugby?
Our practice hours are in the morning from 6 am to 8 am and in the evening from 4 pm to 6 pm. During this time, we have no classes and even if we miss our classes, we take notes from our friends. Our teachers are very supportive and if we miss something, they help us out later.