Tokyo 2020: Vandana Katariya steps out of Rani Rampal's shadow as India rediscover a champion at Olympics

Vandana Katariya is the first Indian woman to score a hockey hat trick at the Olympics. AP Photo/John Locher

In the hours that follow, you will hear and read the name of Vandana Katariya a lot. She became the first Indian woman to score a hockey hat trick at the Olympics, starring in India's 4-3 win against South Africa. And the goals were a full range, needed on a day when the plucky South Africans, energised by a valiant Phumlela Mbande in goal, would just refuse to give up.

This result keeps them in the hunt for a maiden appearance at the knockouts of an Olympics, but there was more to the result than just the score, or of Vandana's goals, each a precise, opportune deflection. Much like Navneet Kaur's goal against Ireland on Friday, deflections are the biggest deception in a team's attacking armour. They require balance, stillness, courage, anticipation and heart...all of which have been evident in the Indian forwardline in these two matches.

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With this hat trick, she also might have finally stepped away from the significant shadow of Rani Rampal, her captain, technically her junior in this team.

Vandana was drawn to the sport spurred on by her sister Reena, who also played hockey. One of eight children, Vandana's father Nahar Singh had been a wrestler, and encouraged his children to play, irrespective of gender, in their early years in Roshanabad near Haridwar.

She made her debut at 15 in 2007, a couple of years before Rani, who has since gone on to become the more established star among the two. The two of them are also among the core of the team from the Junior World Cup side of 2013, when India won an unprecedented bronze in Monchengladbach. Rani was the player of the tournament then, but Vandana had shown her wares in attack too, scoring India's first hat trick against Russia. Rani, Vandana, Navneet, Sushila Chanu, Deep Grace Ekka, Monika Malik and Navjot Kaur were all bronze medallists together, and have pulled their weight in India's last two wins, which have kept them alive at these Olympics.

She's long been known as among the most talented player in the current side, but her inability to deliver on the big occasion in the past has contrasted with some smashing moments featuring Rani. A fluent goal scorer in her earliest days, Vandana often drops deep in the current setup, allowing younger strikers like Lalremsiami and Sharmila Devi to push up and attack the goal.

On Saturday, she was on hand to turn in the first significant chance that came India's way, a firm slap inside the circle from Navneet that she nonchalantly directed past Mbande.

Penalty corner (PC) conversion has been an issue for India at these Games, with just one goal off 22 going into the South Africa game. Their profligacy in the early stages today would have given coach Sjoerd Marijne a scare, but then Vandana chipped in with a clever, and brave, deflection off a vicious slap from Deep Grace in the 17th minute, restoring India's lead after South Africa had grabbed a late goal to end the first quarter.

South Africa just wouldn't go away, though, and with the game tied at 3-3, this time it was time for a Gurjit Kaur drag flick off a PC that Vandana charged towards, and just found enough of her stick to put it to the far post behind Mbande.

Her expression said it all -- with the campaign on the line, the senior pro was taking charge. It was a welcome change from previous campaigns, where almost everything has eventually boiled down to Rani.

It might still not be enough, of course, but India have rediscovered a champion player in the course of five arduous days in Tokyo.