Not many would have heard of Enumulavaripalli village. It is a small hamlet in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. However, many hockey fanatics know about Rajani Etimarpu, the goalkeeper of the Indian national women’s team who hails from this small village. 

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Rajani comes from a humble background. She struggled during the initial days in the sport, but her grit and determination serve as an inspiration to many.  She studied at ZPH High School, a government school in Nerabailu. Taking advantage of her tall height, Rajani would often play volleyball during the four or five PT periods a week. Sometimes, her PT teacher would ask her to be the goalkeeper for the hockey team as no one else would come forward to be the goalie. 

She vividly recalls her farewell function of eight grades in 2004, which led her to start playing hockey. Prasanna Kumar Reddy, the then Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Hockey Association, spoke at length of the benefits of playing hockey and the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh center in Tirupati where selections were going to be held for new trainees. Her mother was present at the event and later asked her if she was interested.  

“I had developed an interest so I decided to go to the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh in Tirupati, and luckily, along with two of my friends, I also got selected. It was there that I learned the most about hockey initially,” Rajani Tells Her Story.

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For Rajani, the Olympic Qualifiers in 2015 count as one of the highs of her over-a-decade long career. The performance in the qualifiers had given Indian women’s team to represent the country at the Olympics after a 36-year wait.   

“It was a moment where we all realized how much the sport meant to the nation, and how our performances on the field made our families proud. It was a moment when I realized that everyone in my village, and even in my state, got to know about me, and it earned a huge amount of respect for my parents as well,” says Rajani.  

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