The world of sports was once a male dominated arena, but it’s been years now that female athletes have shown the same and at times even more, charisma and vigour to mark their own dominance in this beautiful world of sports. Be it team or individual sports, Indian female athletes have taken the name of our nation beyond the limits of the sky. And as we celebrate International Women’s day today, we take a moment to celebrate Indian female athletes who have redefined sports in India.
Hima Das & Dutee Chand (Athletics)
Just when she was 19, Hima Das bagged a gold medal for our nation in 400mts by clocking 51.46s at the IAAF World U-20 Championships and successfully became the first Indian sprinter to win a gold medal at a prestigious international track event. In 2018 Asian games, she broke the national record for 400mts by clocking 51.00 and later on bettered her own record to 50.79s. She became our very own ‘golden girl’ in 2019, when she bagged 5 gold medals in different meets in the matter of just 20 days.
Dutee Chand is the first openly Indian gay athlete. With unshaken motivation and determination over the years, she became a household name when she became the third Indian women to ever qualify for the Summer Olympics in 100mts. In 2018, she bagged a silver medal in the Asian Games, bringing home the first medal in this event since 1998. Dutee Chand is the first Indian sprinter who has won a gold at the Universiade in 2019. Chand has successfully broken her own records all along every year in the subsequent championships held across the globe.
Mithali Raj & Jhulan Goswami (Cricket)
The two indomitable have been the forerunner of Indian women's cricket. Mithali, the former captain of Indian ODI team, is the highest run-scorer in women's cricket and the first to surpass the 6000-run mark in ODIs. The right-handed batswoman is also the first woman to play 200 ODIs. In T20Is, she became the first woman cricketer to achieve 2000 runs and the first Indian cricketers midst both male and female to reach the milepost.
Jhulan, on the other hand, is extensively deemed as one of the fastest bowlers in women's cricket. She is the highest wicket taker in the WODI. In 2018, she became the first woman to ever take 200 wickets in the WODIs.
Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu (Badminton)
Saina Nehwal has been the pioneer of the upheaval in badminton, and PV Sindhu has played a vital role in shattering the ceiling and encouraging many more female athletes into the field. Saina is the only Indian to have won at least one medal in every BWF major individual event, namely the Olympics, BWF World Championships and the BWF World Junior Championships. The former number 1 has won 24 international titles with 7 of them being superseries titles. She has represented India in the Olympics thrice and bagged the bronze medal in 2012.
PV Sindhu broke into the top 20 of the BWF rankings at the age of 17. Since then, she has won medals at multiple international tournaments including a silver at the Olympics and a gold at the 2019 World Championships. Forbes listed Sindhu in 2018 and 2019 the highest paid female athletes of all time.
Ngangom Bala Devi (Football)
Bala Devi is the current top scorer for the Indian women’s football team with 65 goals in 80 matches since 2010. In January 2020 she signed an 18-month deal with the Scottish club Rangers Women’s FC and became the first Indian woman footballer to sign a professional contract with a European outfit. She went on to rewrite history when she became the first Indian woman to score in a European football league.
Manasi Joshi and Deepa Malik (Para-athletics)
World number 2 in women’s singles in the SL3 category, a para-badminton player, and the current World Champion, Manasi Joshi is one of the most inspirational and powerful women you will ever come across. Joshi won a silver medal in mixed doubles at the Para-Badminton World Championship in September 2015. She beat her own countrywoman in 2019 at the Badminton World Championship to clinch the gold medal.
A world number 1 in the F53 javelin event, she has been in the wheelchair since 1999 but Deepa Malik didn’t let her passion for sports die. She is the first Indian woman to win a medal at the paralympics wherein she won a silver medal in the Shot put event. Her interest goes beyond shot put, in 2018 she won a gold medal in the F-53/54 Javelin event at the para-athletics grand prix and is also associated with many adventure sports.
Sania Mirza (Tennis)
Former doubles and India no.1, a mother with 6 grand slam titles Sania Mirza, India’s most successful tennis player. She has won medals for India at the Asian games, Commonwealth games and Afro-Asian games.
Heena Sidhu and Anjali Bhagwat (Shooting)
Both a world number 1 in pistol shooting and 10m air rifle shooting. Heena Sidhu became the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at the ISSF world cup. She also holds a world record in 10mts pistol shooting.
Anjali Bhagwat on the other hand, is the only indian to win ISSF Champions' Trophy in Air Rifle Men & Women mixed event and the only indian woman shooter to make the olympics finals in the shooting event. In the 2003 Afro-Asain Games, she created history by becoming the first indian woman shooter to secure a gold and silver medal in the sports 3P and Air Rifle events.
Athletes like Geeta Phogat, Mirabai Chanu, Dipa Karmakar, Komalika Bari, Dipika Pallikal, Mary Kom, Rani Rampal and Dipika Kumari and many many more are just few amongst many who took it as a responsibility to represent our nation, not in order to prove any point or to achieve stardom but to encourage many others like them to be a part of the world of sports. All these names above tell us that she can run, wrestle, shoot and possibly can do anything. Women are being emboldened to shatter barriers and make positive differences. While it’s uplifting to see Hima run to the podium or Vinesh Phogat wrestle to victory, there are many gifted women out there who require a stage to perform and outshine. Now, the responsibility lies in crafting an encouraging environment for women in diverse sports to get the sustenance they need to prosper.