KIUG: Sujata Kujur, Sambalpur’s pride, eyes spot in Indian women’s hockey team

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 In the heart of Sundargarh, a small town in Odisha, where the fragrance of the fields blends with dreams of the young, Sujata Kujur has emerged as an inspiring figure.


Sujata led the Sambalpur University’s women’s hockey team in their gold medal-winning performance at the Khelo India University Games 2023 Ashtalakshmi where they defeated ITM University, Gwalior 5-3 in a thrilling final which went into a penalty shootout after the score was tied 1-1 in regulation time.


“It’s an incredible feeling to emerge as champions. Our team displayed a seamless blend of unity, unwavering dedication, and the essential combination of skills,” said the 20-year-old Sujata, who plays as a midfielder.


Sujata’s hockey journey, much like the children from Sundargarh region which has produced scores of international hockey stars, began at a tender age of 10. Her only dream was to play her the senior India side.


Born to a farmer father and a homemaker mother, financial constraints posed a significant hurdle. Undeterred, Sujata’s relentless spirit led her to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Sundargarh, where her exceptional performances paved the way for her transition to the National Centre of Excellence (NCOE) in Kolkata in 2020.


The turning point in Sujata’s life came when she was included in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS). This initiative not only reduced her financial burdens but also allowed her to support her family back home. The stipend from the scheme became a lifeline, empowering Sujata to send money home regularly, providing for her parents, a younger brother, and an elder sister, who are pursuing their education.


Expressing her gratitude, Sujata said, “The Target Olympic Podium Scheme has been my pillar of strength. It has not only fuelled my hockey dreams but also enabled me to contribute to my family’s well-being. It’s a source of immense pride for me.”


At the NCOE Kolkata, Sujata found herself in an environment that nurtured her talent. The facility provided her with everything she needed – from proper nutrition to quality equipment. This support system has played a pivotal role in her journey so far.


Sujata’s prowess extended beyond the university level as she was a vital part of the Indian Women’s Junior team, which clinched gold at the Junior Asia Cup in Japan last year. Her journey also saw her represent the Indian Junior Women’s team at the 4 Nations Junior Women’s Invitational Tournament in Düsseldorf and the FIH Junior World Cup in Santiago, both in 2023.


Sujata has now set her sight on fulfilling her long-standing dream – to secure a coveted spot in the Indian Women’s Hockey Team.


“Every obstacle has only strengthened my resolve. I am committed to giving my best and making a mark in the Indian Women’s Hockey Team. This journey isn’t solely mine; it symbolizes the aspirations of every young soul in my village, steadfast in their commitment to overcome obstacles and turn dreams into reality,” she added.

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