The captain, Rani Rampal, is the daughter of a domestic worker and a cart puller; defender Deep Grace had to brave the scorn of the villagers for taking up a man’s sport; Vandana Katariya, who scored a hat-trick in the last match, had to practice with tree branches because she could not afford to buy a hockey stick; goalkeeper Savita Punia, who stymied Australia’s efforts to score goals, had to travel hundreds of kilometers every week for professional coaching. These are just some nuggets from the lives of the Indian women hockey players who have stormed into the semi-finals and the history books at the Tokyo Olympics. Whatever the outcome of their efforts from here on, it is certain that they have captured the hearts and imagination of millions of their fellow citizens.

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