2016-2017 can be dubbed as the Renaissance period in the life of women sportspersons in India. While there had already been some focus on a few greats like Indian women’s cricket team skipper Mithali Raj and ace shuttler Saina Nehwal, a few notable achievements in the previous 12-15 months helped women take a giant leap forward in the world of sports. There has been an increase in the number of young kids taking up sports and going to sports academies as the parents are focusing on their kids’ overall growth rather than just burying them in books.
Bollywood has also done its bit with movies like Dangal, Mary Kom, and Chak de India, projecting the female-centric stories for people to witness, which inspire them to push ahead and to defy the conventions. All of this could become a reality because these women sportspersons refused to give up or give in to the norms of society and were able to break the shackles once and for all.
Here are a few women sportspersons who made their way up the ladder and deserve every bit of fame they are getting now-
The artistic gymnast pulled off the Produnava vault with a near-perfect technique in the Rio Olympics 2016. The Produnava vault she attempted is identified as the ‘vault of death’ and the athletes attempted it have suffered from horrendous injuries. The Agartala girl managed to finish fourth in the Rio Olympics 2016 and made history. Karmakar missed the bronze medal by a whisker.
The 24-year-old’s effort in the Olympics helped the game get into the spotlight, a game which was barely known to the masses in India. The way she channels her aggression into the game is an inspiration for all aspiring athletes.
Interestingly, even gold-medallist Simone Biles did not dare attempt the ‘Produnava vault’! Biles feels that Karmakar was a ‘Daredevil’ to have pulled it off.
Sakshi Malik can be called as the ‘Queen of comebacks’. That’s what she did in repechage round of Rio Olympics 2016 when most of the nation was comfortably sleeping on August 18, 2016. Malik won the match by 8-5 despite trailing by 5 points. As the sun came up, Malik became a superstar as she became the first woman wrestler to bag a bronze in Olympics.
Filled with passion and dedication, the girl from Rohtak use to practise with male wrestlers to prepare for matches. She made wrestling popular in India and a topic of discussion in youth.
Before PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal was the big name for India in the badminton sport. But, the tall girl from Hyderabad overshadowed Nehwal in a matter of days as the latter was ruled out early in the tournament. Sindhu bettered India’s badminton record in Olympics as she became the first Indian woman to bag a silver medal in Rio Olympics 2016. She recently defeated World’s No.1 Nozomi Okuhara in the Korea Open final avenging her defeat in the World Championships final.
Kanchanmala’s the only name in this list which is not so popular. The blind swimmer won a silver medal in Berlin World Championships, 2017. Kanchanmala Pande also became the only female Indian swimmer to qualify for World Para Championships. She had to beg and borrow in Berlin as her funds ran out, the funds she acquired through a loan. Allegedly PCI (Paralympic Committee of India) did not disburse the funds to the swimmers. She went against all odds and made her country proud. Even India’s Olympic gold medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra came to her aid and supported her.
If her story does not make it into the list of inspiration for athletes then what will?
The hero of ICC Women’s World Cup semi-final of India, Harmanpreet Kaur played a staggering knock of 171 runs and helped India reach the finals. She played through the tournament with a finger injury, not caring about the pain but an intention to deliver for the country.
Harmanpreet is currently leading India in the T20I side and more luckily to lead the side post-Mithali Raj era. She is the first women cricketer to play in WBBL (Women’s Big Bash League) and inspired girls in the team leading by example.
The most recent ‘national crush’ Smriti Mandhana is so much more once you dig in into her story. Mandhana was on crutches months before the World Cup 2017. She made her way back from a major injury and helped India to get off to a flier in the tournament. She scored 90 and 106 against England and West Indies respectively setting the tone for the tournament.
She never fails to make a statement in press conferences and speaks freely. Recently she asked everyone to not look up to legend Sachin Tendulkar but Mithali Raj as the latter has done wonders for women cricket before it was popular.
There has been an increase in support because of the above-mentioned players and others. The nation hopes to see women empowerment in the sports arena as well and athletes like these are the torchbearer to this virtual campaign.