On the frozen ice lakes of Ladakh – at an altitude of 11,000 feet where temperatures drop as low as minus 20 degree Celsius — there is a group of women who are gearing up to represent India in an international ice hockey tournament.
The team, consisting of women from Ladakh, is the first ever Indian National Women’s Ice Hockey team that has been assembled to represent the country at the IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia, 2016, to be held in Chinese Taipei this March.
Of the 28 players who have been selected for the national team, many hail from rural regions of Ladakh. It has been a very difficult journey for them, starting with convincing their families to let them travel abroad and participate in the Games.
Ice hockey, a sport that is less known in India, has been an integral part of Ladakh for about six decades now. The extreme winters in the region provide for the perfect setting for the sport to grow. But the game was restricted to men only for a long time. It was about 15 years ago that members of Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) thought of opening the doors of ice hockey to women as well. Slowly, with the help of donated clubs from teams in Sweden, Canada etc., SECMOL developed four women’s teams from different parts of Ladakh. But even after battling harsh cold winds and extreme climatic conditions to practice, the national team is now faced with yet another challenge.
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The Ice Hockey Association of India (IHAI), which is the national governing body for Ice Hockey in India, informed the team that they don’t have sufficient funds to sponsor the travel and other arrangements for the girls to go to Taipei. So each player will need to raise Rs. 15,000 or more to travel. Given the background of many of these girls, it will be very difficult for them to even think about raising such an amount. Other than this, the team also does not have adequate required equipment and infrastructure to play. The girls don’t have an ice rink where they can practise in every season, so they have to wait for winter and for the lakes to freeze. The region does not even have any stores that sell hockey equipment. They are completely dependent on donations from other countries as of now.
These passionate girls need your support to keep playing and to reach greater heights. As one of them says – “If we have the funds, we can play at the Olympic level too.”
SECMOL has set up a fundraising campaign and they plan to use the funds to support the 28 players with Rs. 15,000 each, and then for the larger cause of betterment of women’s ice hockey in India. Additional funds will be used in collaboration with Ladakh Women’s Ice Hockey Foundation, which is an NGO comprising mostly the players themselves, for further development of ice hockey in the country.
Hear these women talk about their love for the sport and their current requirements:[embedvideo id=”3J-IN-boAY0″ website=”youtube”]
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