Receiving India jersey from my mother was very special: Sonika
When Covid struck in 2020, Sonika had to leave the national camp to seek professional help to improve her mental wellbeing. Three years on, she is back as an India regular.
A fortnight ago, when Sonika's mother boarded a flight from Delhi to arrive in Bengaluru to attend Sunehra Safar - a special send-off ceremony hosted by Hockey India - little did the 26-year-old player know that she would receive her India jersey from her mother ahead of the all-important Hangzhou Asian Games, which is scheduled to be held from September 23 to October 8.
"It was truly a special moment, especially to receive the jersey in front of a big audience which included all my teammates. Those few minutes on the stage brought back all the memories of my struggle and facing challenges to get here and my mother has been equally part of this journey - always supporting me at every crucial juncture," stated an emotional Sonika.
The midfielder from Hisar, Haryana made her senior team debut at the Hawke's Bay Cup in New Zealand back in 2016. She was part of the team that won the gold medal at the Women's Asia Cup in 2017 and featured in the Ready Steady Tokyo event in 2019.
But the following year put a pause in her budding career. In 2020, she had to leave the national camp to seek professional help to improve her mental wellbeing. "Covid lockdown was not kind to me. It was a tough phase personally and I am so glad that my struggle to stay strong mentally through this phase was recognized very early on by the team management and I was provided with professional help. Looking back, I am very grateful to Hockey India and my teammates for allowing me this break," stated Sonika in retrospect.
Having made a comeback in the national team in 2021-22 at the FIH Hockey Pro League after a strong performance in the National Championships, Sonika has only risen in her career. She has been a regular face in the team, having played a part in India's historic bronze medal win at the Commonwealth Games in 2022 as well as the title win at the FIH Nations Cup.
"I am extremely excited and eager to play my first ever Asian Games. I have put in a lot of hard work to reach this stage in my career and having picked up good results in major events like CWG, the team is very confident of a good show. After Hockey India's Sunehra Safar event, the team is all the more motivated and inspired to bring laurels to the country, as well as our families. Our focus is purely on winning the Gold and doing well in the Paris Olympics 2024," Sonika signed off.
India is grouped in Pool A with Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong China and Singapore. They will begin their campaign on 27th September against Singapore.