The defender was a crucial part of the Indian women’s hockey team at the Tokyo Olympics.

Indian women’s hockey team star Gurjit Kaur was one of the key players for the squad at the Tokyo Olympics. She scored four goals in the competition to guide her side to the Olympic semifinals for the first time ever. The drag-flicker was also India’s joint highest scorer, partnering forward Vandana Katariya.

Her goal was vital in India’s 1-0 quarterfinal victory over mighty Australia, which was perhaps the tournament’s biggest upset. Gurjit Kaur also scored in India’s 2-1 semifinal defeat to Argentina. A brace followed in the bronze medal match against Great Britain which India lost by a whisker of 4-3. These performances finally reaped rewards for her as she won the FIH Women’s Player of the Year Award in September 2021.

Gurjit Kaur will now look to improve her performance and achieve more glory in her career. Let’s take a look at the five things you need to know about her.

5. Humble Childhood

Even though Gurjit Kaur was born into a farming family, her parents Satnam Singh and Harjinder Kaur wanted their daughters to be educated. They enrolled her children in a private school in Ajnala even though there was a government school near their home.

Gurjit’s father would take her to school, which was 13 kilometres away, on a bicycle. Her parents, however, opted to enrol both of their daughters at a residential school after receiving advice from some relatives. They also encouraged their daughters to play hockey and achieve their dreams.

4. First face off With hockey

Gurjit Kaur and her sister Pradeep Kaur started playing hockey at the residential school in Kairon, one of Punjab’s oldest hockey nurseries for female players. It started as a hobby, but then both of them recognized an opportunity.

They were good at playing hockey and also managed to get into the government wing. Gurjit’s parents benefited greatly from their free education and diet. Pradeep went on to become a national-level hockey player, while her sister pursued her ambitions even further and became an Olympian.

3. Rise to the fame

Gurjit Kaur was called up for the senior national camp for the first time in 2014. But it wasn’t until 2017 that she was given a permanent spot in the Indian women’s hockey team, where she quickly made an impact.

She burst into the limelight at the 2017 Asia Cup, scoring eight goals to become the tournament’s highest scorer. Gurjit also put forth a strong display at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. Even though India did not finish on the podium, people took notice of the drag-flicker. She converted two penalty corners into goals against Malaysia in the second group A match, which helped to register a 4-1 win.

The Indian defender continued her good run of form and got selected for the Tokyo Olympics squad as well. She is one of the most important members of the team now and scores often.

2. Fault In sticks

Dutch coach Sjoerd Marijne was appointed as the head coach of the Indian women’s team in 2018. The Dutchman had then assisted Gurjit Kaur in resolving her penalty corner dilemma. He instructed her to use new heavy sticks instead of lighter ones. It significantly increased the power of her drag-flicks and benefited the national team.

In an interview with the Tribune, Gurjit Kaur recollected, “The stick I was using before seemed light, and I wasn’t getting enough strength from it. Marijne urged me to attempt drag-flicking with a new stick when we travelled to Holland. It was a lot better, and I felt a lot stronger.”

1. Change In technique

Gurjit Kaur also learned a lot about drag-flicks under the tutelage of veteran Dutch star Toon Siepman. Toon is the same coach who mentored the likes of great Sohail Abbas and the Netherlands’ Mink van der Weerden. Before Rio Olympics in 2016, Toon, who also worked as the penalty corner coach for the Belgian national team, focused on the fundamentals to increase Gurjit’s desire to score goals.

Toon worked on Gurjit’s movement and technique to improve the quality of her drag-flicks. He also worked to increase her strength which was evident in the Tokyo Olympics campaign.

“With Siepman, I was able to improve my fundamentals like keeping my head up, turning my body, and stepping during the drag-flicking process. These were simple adjustments, but I had no idea I was doing it improperly before. He instructed me to make these tiny modifications to become the finest drag-flicker in the world. Every time I work on drag-flicking, I keep it in mind,” Gurjit Kaur told The Tribune.

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