Leh: Skarma Rinchen’s ice hockey journey is truly inspiring, showcasing the transformative power of determination and hard work. Originating from Gya Meru, a semi-nomadic village in Ladakh, adds a unique dimension to the 20-year-old’s story, considering Ladakh’s challenging terrain and harsh winters.
In 2017, during an ice hockey training workshop in her village, Skarma saw an ice-skating boot for the first time but struggled to even stand on the blades. The following year, with some improvement, she developed a growing interest despite limited practice opportunities.
Attending a 15-day workshop in Leh organized by the Women’s Association changed her story. There, Skarma Rinchen met girls from the Indian women’s national ice hockey team and showed up to their practicesessions regularly and eventually earned a chance to train alongside them. In 2023, Skarma, a left forward, is herself a national team player.
While she adds to Ladakh’s contribution to the national team, Skarma was part of the Maryul Spamo Leh squad that won gold medal in the Royal Enfield Ice Hockey League, a championship which started by the UT administration in January this year to tap the grassroots in Ladakh.
Skarma was part of the Ladakh women’s team that won silver in the national ice hockey championships 2024 in Kaza (Himachal Pradesh).Her maiden international debut came at the 2023 IIHF Women’s Asia and Oceania Championship in Thailand.
It was not a happy debut for Skarma as India lost to Iran but for the young Ladakhi village girl, it was a moment to savour. “I was nervous before my first international game. An artificial rink was something I had never knew existed as I had only seen natural rink.When I stepped onto the court, the tall girls and their gears seemed intimidating. It was overwhelming, but we managed to reach the semi-finals.”
After losing to Iran, Indian women beat Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Malaysia. India lost to Thailand in the semifinal. Thailand finally won the gold beating Iran in the final.
Skarma hopes to send a message about resilience and determination, especially for girls facing challenges as “ice hockey is a physically challenging game and girls especially tend to give up fast when they are hurt, believing in oneself and working hard is the key to mastering a game like this.”
Skarma’s journey, from struggling on skates in 2017 to making it to the national ice hockey team in 2023, underscores the rewards of persistence.
Skarma recognizes the importance of the Khelo India Winter Games (KIWG) as the fourth edition welcomes women’s teams for the first time. She states that she is “excited to compete on my home ground, I believe that this national-level event will break barriers and create more opportunities for female athletes across the country”.
Skarma sees ice hockey as more than just a game, acknowledging its transformative impact. It initially become an escape during slow winters, offering physical activity to eventually becoming an opportunity to see the world. Her participation,nationally and internationally was the dream that wasn’t possible had it not been for Ice-Hockey.
Beyond her personal achievements, Skarma hopes that professional ice hockey will open up more job opportunities, highlighting potential socio-economic benefits for girls hailing from remote villages in Ladakh. In essence, Skarma Rinchen’s story encapsulates the transformative power of sports and the resilience needed to overcome challenges, serving as an inspiration for aspiring athletes, especially girlsin remote villages of Ladakh and beyond. IANS