Bengaluru: Two weeks ago, as Sonika's mother embarked on a flight from Delhi to Bengaluru for the Sunehra Safar, a special send-off ceremony hosted by Hockey India, little did the 26-year-old athlete anticipate that she would receive her coveted Indian jersey from her mother. This heartwarming moment unfolded just ahead of the highly anticipated Hangzhou Asian Games, scheduled to take place from September 23, 2023, to October 8, 2023.
Standing on stage in front of a sizeable audience, which included her fellow teammates, Sonika was overwhelmed by the significance of the occasion. "It truly was a special moment, especially receiving the jersey in the presence of my teammates. Those few minutes on stage brought back memories of my arduous journey and the challenges I faced to reach this point. My mother has been an integral part of this journey, providing unwavering support at every crucial juncture," expressed an emotional Sonika.
Hailing from Hisar, Haryana, Sonika made her debut in the senior team during the Hawke's Bay Cup in New Zealand in 2016. She was a vital member of the squad that clinched the gold medal at the Women's Asia Cup in 2017 and also participated in the Ready Steady Tokyo event in 2019.
However, her promising career hit a pause in the following year. In 2020, Sonika had to temporarily withdraw from the National Camp to seek professional assistance in improving her mental well-being. "The Covid lockdown was particularly challenging for me. It was a personally trying period, and I'm immensely grateful that my struggle to maintain mental resilience during this phase was promptly recognized by the team management, who provided me with professional support. In hindsight, I deeply appreciate Hockey India and my teammates for granting me this necessary break," reflected Sonika.
Returning to the national team in 2021/22 for the FIH Hockey Pro League after a stellar performance in that year's National Championships, Sonika's career has been on an upward trajectory. She has consistently contributed to the team's successes, including the historic bronze medal victory at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and the title win at the FIH Nations Cup 2022.
"I am incredibly excited and eager to participate in my first Asian Games. I have put in a tremendous amount of hard work to reach this stage in my career, and with positive results in major events like the CWG, the team is brimming with confidence. Following Hockey India's Sunehra Safar event, we are even more motivated and inspired to bring honor to our country and our families. Our sole focus is on securing the gold medal and performing well at the Paris Olympics in 2024," Sonika concluded.
India finds itself placed in Pool A alongside Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong China, and Singapore. Their campaign will kick off on September 27th against Singapore.