Goal Machine: Coaches remember soft-spoken hockey star who scored against Australia, Argentina

Gurjit Kaur's two goals in two matches have given her family, friends and coaches reason to hope for a bronze medal

Goal Machine: Coaches remember soft-spoken hockey star who scored against Australia, Argentina

Aparna Banerji

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 4

The Indian women's hockey team gave a tough fight to Argentina before losing 1-2 in the semifinals at the Tokyo Olympics, but Gurjit Kaur's two goals in two matches have given her family, friends and coaches reason to hope for a bronze medal.

After the amazing victory run at the 2018 Asian Games, where her 11 goals were key to India winning a silver medal, drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur was given a hero's welcome at her alma mater here, Lyallpur Khalsa College for Women. The college staff and coaches went to receive her and, heavily garlanded, she was brought to the college in an open jeep — like a star.

She scored two crucial goals against two of the world's best teams in Tokyo, and her coaches have been hearing from her regularly as she sought feedback and advice.

Christened 'Goal Machine' early on, a tag cemented after her eight goals at the 2017 Asia Cup, Gurjit honed her skills during her college days here. During her time at the Lyallpur Khalsa College as a BA student, from 2013 to 2015, she first played for India, in 2014. But her coaches say they could see the makings of a star in her before that.

Happy coaches

Following her goal in the match against Argentina on Wednesday, college Principal Navjot Kaur's phone hasn't stopped ringing.

Three coaches — Olympian Varinder Singh (75), Parminder Kaur and  Kulvinder Singh Saini — worked with her when she was part of the college team. She called and talked with all three when she was selected in the Olympics team earlier this year.

"Jadon Asian Games ton muri, ohne sabh ton pehlan aake college ground nu matha tekeya (She paid obeisance at the college ground after returning from the Asian Games). She was called Goal Machine for her scoring abilities," said Saini. "We knew she was special. During college days, she practised for hours in the field during peak afternoon. We would ask her not to overdo it and she would say: 'I'm having proper diet, I will handle it'."

The college — which offers free lodging and sporting facility for sports students — boasts of alumni such as Rajbir Kaur, Ajinder Kaur and several others who played for India. Gurjit too was a prodigy who was provided all facilities at the college.

"We are very proud of her. She was fluid on the ground. After her Asian Games feat, our best dholi girls played dhol and danced at her achievement," said Varinder Singh, who played in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. "It was a magical time. She has never forgotten the college and has stayed in touch all through her sporting journey."

"She brought us glory. Our college won the state championships for three consecutive years when she was a student here," said Parminder Kaur. "She had a major contribution in that. She was so shy and soft-spoken, she used to hide behind others during interactions. But I see her interviews today and can't stop beaming with happiness."

"She's the most sweet-natured child. During her college days, when a teacher was absent, Gurjit would go missing. She would be eventually found in the ground, practicing!" said Navjot Kaur.

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