The story of young Mumtaz Khan, who plays as a forward for the Indian junior women's hockey team, is one of hardships, grit, determination and great potential.
The 17-year-old who hails from the capital city of Uttar Pradesh, happened to choose hockey only by coincidence, but has become one of the brightest prospects for the country after putting in impressive performances in the last couple of years.
"I believe it was in the year 2011 that I was spotted at one of the races I was participating in for my school. It was Neelam Siddiqui who was present on the occasion and told my father that he should put me into the sport of hockey.
"I didn't really know much about the sport back then because I was so young, but as I started watching and playing it, I started developing a real interest," said the teenager who was eventually enrolled into the Lucknow hostel in 2014 and started training under Siddiqui.
"I feel it was just a coincidence that coach (Siddiqui) found me there in Agra, and the rest that has followed has been due to the hard work that I have put in," she added.
Mumtaz, whose father and mother work as vegetable vendors in Lucknow, has many goals in mind and one of them is to help her family.
"I do come from a very humble background so one of the factors in me playing hockey was that I might be able to help my parents. I have been fortunate enough to have represented the Indian junior women's team and have always aimed at giving my all on the pitch, and I am hoping that it can translate into a bright future for us off the field," expressed the 17-year-old.
Lauded for her efforts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the third Youth Olympic Games 2018, where her 10 goals helped India in securing the silver medal, Mumtaz says she wants to aim for bigger things, but is looking to take it one step at a time.
"I know that whatever I have done so far is nothing as compared to what I want to achieve in my career, so I don't want to get too ahead of myself. I want to ensure I am taking small baby steps, and doing the right things always. I am happy to have the support of my parents and my coaches, and my dream is to repay their faith in whatever way possible," said the forward who has also won the bronze medal at the 4th Girls U-18 Asia Cup 2016, silver medal at the 6-Nations Invitational Tournament 2018, and the gold medal at the Cantor Fitzgerald U21 International 4-Nations Tournament 2019.
The journey for the youngster has been full of ups and downs, but she is determined to keep shining for the country.
"It is no secret that I have had difficult moments personally, and sometimes it has been difficult for my parents also, but I am glad that they have always supported me no matter what, and I can't wait to make them happy.
"For that, I have very clear goals in mind, which are to perform very well in each training session and each match that I play for my country, and eventually help my team in winning medals at big tournaments like the Olympics and
the Asian Games," said Mumtaz.(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed - IANS)