Sonipat-born hockey player Neha Goyal has turned her sleepless nights into medals. It’s his story.

There are many examples of girls taking up sport to escape harsh realities. One of them is Neha Goyal, the Indian hockey player from Sonipat, Haryana. Goyal’s father, an unemployed alcoholic, frequently became violent at home. The hockey field, on the other hand, offered a release from trauma. Other incentives included free clothes and two meals a day. Therefore, around 2008, Neha signed up for a training program led by former Indian player Pritam Siwach.

Now Goyal, 25, all 4’9″, is a regular in India, including at the Tokyo Olympics, where Indian women won respect with a spirited fourth place, and at the Commonwealth Games, where they won bronze. “My family was quite poor,” Goyal said. “My father was an alcoholic, most of the time he wasn’t even at home. My mother took care of the house alone. Goyal’s mother, Savitri Devi, abused at night, worked as a maid and had odd jobs, including working in a cycle factory.At some point, Goyal and her two sisters also joined the cycle factory and were earning together around 2,000 rupees per month.

Goyal’s father passed away a few years ago. Thanks to her hockey success, she and her mother moved into a new apartment building. Goyal often allows players in need to stay in her home. As a defensive midfielder, she thwarts opposing attacks. Off the pitch, she protects vulnerable people by providing them with a safe space, which she did not have access to as a child.

(This appeared in the print edition as “Traumatic Nights to Medal Heights”)

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Catherine J. Martinez