India women’s captain Rani has won The World Games Athlete of the Year 2019 award. The prize, which is voted for by the public, is given for outstanding performances, along with social commitment and fair behaviour.
There were initially 25 nominees, male and female, which was reduced to 10 in the final round of public voting. Among her rivals to the title were karate star Stanislav Horuna of Ukraine, the Canadian powerlifting champion Rhaea Stinn and Janja Garnbret, a sport climbing star from Slovenia.
Rani, who has been a member of the national team since she was a mere 15-year-old and currently has more than 240 caps for her country, stated: “It is my privilege and honour to win this award. The award goes to my team and my country. It is always nice when your country recognises your effort. It is even better when the international sports community recognises it. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me. 2019 was a great year for our team because we qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. As a team we want to make 2020 a great year!”
FIH CEO Thierry Weil said: “On behalf of FIH and the global hockey community, I would like to extend our warmest congratulations to Rani for having been voted The World Games Athlete of the Year 2019. This is an acknowledgement of her outstanding performances – together with her teammates -, of her dedication to hockey and of her leadership. This prestigious Award is also a great recognition for hockey globally.” And he added: “We are working hard for and look forward to having Hockey 5s as a demonstration sport at The World Games 2021.”
Looking back on 2019, the highlight for Rani and her teammates was the FIH Women’s Series Finals in Hiroshima, where Rani herself was Player of the Tournament and her team sealed their qualification for the Olympics Games Tokyo 2020. Prior to that competition, Rani had also led her team to victory in the Ready Steady Tokyo 2020 hockey test event in August.