The career threatening eye injury did not dent Reena Khokar's spirit to play on the Indian hockey team

BENGALURU: midfielder of the Indian women's team Reena Khokar He had an accident during a gym session in April last year that could have ended his career, but his willingness to fight uncertainty allowed him to return to wearing the India jersey.

I was using an elastic band to do a simple flexibility exercise when the band broke and hit my left eye. It happened so fast that I had no time to react. At the time, little did I know that the next four months would be the worst phase of my life, said Reena, who made her India debut against New Zealand in 2017.

The player possesses exceptional defensive skills, she has been a regular feature of the Indian team since making her debut in 2017. She was part of the team that won the silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games and also played in the FIH Women's World Cup in early this year. .

Her progress on the team was steady until the accident in 2019, which cast doubt on whether she can be ready for the important Olympic qualifier later that year.

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Initially, the doctor had said he would heal soon, but even after a month when the pain was persistent, he then advised surgery to rule out permanent retinal damage. This news was devastating and all I could think about was if I would ever play it hockey again, said Chandigarh, 26.

After a short break, Reena returned to the national camp in July.

I was advised two months bed rest and when I returned to the camp chief coach Sjoerd would talk to me regularly to pep me up. He would tell me about a player in Netherlands who played hockey with vision only in one eye. Positive stories like these and emotional support from my parents and some close friends outside of hockey kept me motivated. When I held the stick again, after almost three months, I knew I would do anything to return to the team and I am thankful to the coaching staff who supported me with step-by-step return to full training and didn't put any kind of pressure, she expressed.

To the surprise of many, Reena was available to the FIH Olympic Qualifiers teams as she had returned at the Test Event held in Tokyo in August 2019, where India was victorious. Although she went through another corrective surgery in December, the danger had passed and Reena is now trying to make the most of this year to earn a place on the Indian side bound for Tokyo.

I had a break on the Indian team quite late. I was around 24 years old when I debuted in India and my junior experience in India is minor, so next year I will do my best to prove myself worthy of a place in the Indian Olympic Squad, Reena said.