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Sunita Chandra, former Indian women's hockey captain, passes away

Sunita Chandra, former Indian womens hockey captain, passes away

Sarah Waris

Published: 28 Jan 2020 6:37 AM GMT

Sunita Chandra, former India women's hockey team captain, passed away in her sleep on Monday. An Arjuna Award winner, Chandra was 76 and is survived by her husband and her two sons. One of her sons Gaurav confirmed the news and stated that Sunita had passed away at her Madhya Pradesh residence.

The sports player turned out for the Indian Eves from 1956 to 1966, and was the captain in her last three years of her career - from 1963 to 1966. While women's hockey in the country was swept under the radar in her playing days, the sport will forever be indebted to her efforts. Soon after she retired, the Indian women's team finished fourth in the World Cup in 1974 at Mandelieu, and the performance was repeated in the Moscow Olympics, held six years later, in 1980, where the Indians finished fourth as well. The Moscow Games was also the first time that women's hockey was introduced at the grandest stage.

A gold medal at the 1982 Asian Games followed, with three successive golds coming in during the 2002 Commonwealth Games, the 2003 Afro-Asia Games and the 2004 Women's Hockey Asia Cup.

Inconsistencies and injuries did plague the team for the next decade, but women's hockey in India roared back after a bronze-medal effort at the 2014 Asian Games at Incheon. The highlight, however, was when, despite all the struggles, the girls managed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics, the first time since 1980 that they were setting foot in the tournament. Though Team India were eliminated in the group stage, it instilled a level of self-belief and confidence in the group.

The true 'Chak De India' truly arrived when they sealed their spot for the Tokyo 2020 Games as well, and it will be the first time in the history of the sport in India that a women's hockey team will play the Summer Games twice in a row.

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