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At Tokyo 2020, the Indian women’s hockey team made history by reaching their maiden Olympic semifinals. There was heart break in the semi finals. However, irrespective of the result, these players had won the hearts of millions of followers in the country. The back stories of these gritty women make for compelling theatre – who they are, where they come from, how hockey has changed them – and, perhaps more importantly, how their success has changed the lives and the mindset of others back home. An expert panel of sports writers – Sharda Ugra, Manuja Veerappa and Nandini Kumar give us a peek into the journeys of the women who make up the Indian Hockey team.
This episode is an extract from a virtual panel discussion which took place on January 30, 2022.
An alumnus of one of Bangalore’s most prestigious institutions, Bishop Cotton Girls’ School, Manuja Veerappa is an oft-read byline in The Times of India. Following her graduation from Christ College, Manuja started out with Vijay Times daily in 2003 as a sports reporter. She moved to The Times of India as a senior correspondent in 2005 before starting a 7-year spell at the Deccan Chronicle in 2008.
Since December 2015, Manuja has been working with the Times of India as an assistant editor (Sports), covering cricket and hockey as her primary beats. She also has a keen eye for sports infrastructure and rural sport. In a career spanning over 18 years, she has covered a repertoire including World Cup in cricket and hockey, Commonwealth Games, Champions Trophy and world championships in billiards and snooker among other major events.
She represented Karnataka in hockey at the national-level and is also the president of the Sports Writers Association of Bangalore.
Nandini Kumar is Communications Specialist and Public Relations expert, with over a decade of experience in Media industry.
She has headed Communications for Indian Men’s and Womens Hockey Teams (Senior and Junior) since 2016 and was involved in formulating end-to-end communications strategy for Indian Men and Women’s Hockey teams for Rio Olympics 2016 and Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Nandini has led on-ground media operations for FIH Junior Men’s World Cup 2016 & 2021 in India, FIH Men’s World Cup 2018, Asia Cup Dhaka 2017 & Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018, FIH Olympic Qualifiers 2019 & FIH World League Final 2017.
She has been the Sports Lead for WordsWork LLP, and worked with major clients such as Hockey India, Laureus World Sports Awards, JSW Sports, Asian Hockey Federation, Swimming Federation of India among others.
Nandini began her career as a journalist for National news organisations in print and online for the likes of Times Group, Daily News & Analysis, New Indian Express, Deccan Chronicle (online), Sportskeeda.
Her initial interest in sports reporting and communications stemmed from her formative days as a sportsperson where she went on to win a national level medal in swimming.
Sharda Ugra has been a sports journalist for over three decades. She started her career with Mumbai tabloid Mid-Day before working for The Hindu, India Today magazine and ESPNcricinfo.com & ESPN India. Early on in her career, she also reported sports news from South Asia for Radio Australia, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s overseas service. She has seen India play cricket in nine countries, reported on two Olympic Games, written about cricket and other sport for popular and academic publications in England and Australia, presented conference papers on Indian sport and won Sports Journalists Federation of India (SJFI) awards for sports writing. She has worked with former New Zealand captain John Wright on John Wright’s Indian Summers, his memoirs of his years coaching India and with Yuvraj Singh on The Test of My Life, an account of his diagnosis and recovery from cancer. She was a fellow of the Australia India Institute, University of Melbourne in 2013.