By Nadia Lewis
Since the start of this year, Indian women have been killing it at sports. And we’re not just talking about the usual stars to make it to the headlines, like Sania Mirza or Saina Nehwal. Have you been wondering what our sportswomen have been upto? Here’s all the lowdown on their achievements so far this year.
Last month, Deepika Kumari, Laxmirani Mahji and Rimil Buriuly proved that Arjuna need not be the only person who knows how to wield a bow and arrow *does sassy snap*.
On August 2, the Indian women’s recurve team came in second at the World Archery Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark. They lost to the Russians in a close match of 27-28 but managed to secure a place for themselves in the 2016 Olympics.
If this was not enough, former World No. 1 Kumari also returned from the Championships with a bronze medal hanging around her neck – a win from the women’s individual recurve event.
And hold on to your horses for some more! Last Friday, Kumari qualified for the World Cup Final, which is going to be held from October 24-25 in Mexico!
In January, runner OP Jaisha clocked in at 2 hours, 37 minutes during the 12th Standard Charted Mumbai Marathon, breaking a 19-year-old national record of 2 hours, 39 minutes. By doing so, she has also managed to qualify for the Rio Olympics along with Lalita Babar (2 hours, 38 minutes) and Sudha Singh (2 hours 42 minutes). And then, she broke her own record! She clocked 2 hours, 34 minutes while finishing 18th in the women’s marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing last month, just ahead of Singh.
Just days ago, Lalita Babar clinched gold in the women’s 3000m steeple chase of the National Open Championships. She created a new meet record in the category, clocking in at 9 hours, 39 minutes breaking the previous record of 10 hours, 8 minutes which was set by Sudha Singh (who came in second this year). Babar, who is the reigning Asian champion, smashed her own national record last month to qualify for the women’s 3000m steeplechase final in the World Athletics Championships. She’s the first Indian to do so.
Runner MR Poovamma who won a bronze in the women’s 400m race and a gold for the 4x400m relay race for the Incheon Asian Games last year, received an Arjuna Award.
Kushbir Kaur, who is a 20km-walk record holder for the women’s team in India, came in 13th at the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Rio Maior, Portugal this April. She clocked better than the official time needed to qualify for the Rio Olympics – 1 hour 33 minutes. We’ll totally be looking out for her there!
Shot putter Manpreet Kaur just broke a national record. She threw 17.96 metres (the earlier record, set by Harbans Kaur in 1997, is 17.43m) to win a gold – her sixth title – at the 55th National Open Athletics Championship this week. And this means she’s on her way to Rio!
After being disbarred last year from competing in any national or international event for “hyperandrogenism” by the Athletics Federation of India, which handled her case horrendously, sprinter Dutee Chand has been given the thumbs up by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) based in Switzerland. More about it here. Meanwhile, the temporary lifting of this ban makes Chand eligible to compete for the Rio Olympics, and she’s training hard for a berth. This week, she raced to an 11.68 second finish in the 100m sprint at the National Open Athletics Championships.
World No.1 Saina Nehwal grabbed a silver at the World Badminton Championships this August, and she is the first ever Indian to do so! Yesteryear’s badminton champion Prakash Padukone managed only a bronze. She came in second at the All England Champions final in March this year.
P V Sindhu also made it to the World Badminton Championships, but she lost in the quarterfinals. She’s won a bronze medal twice before at the Championships, in 2013 and 2014.
Doubles partners Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa won the Canadian Open in June this year. And after a long, much-publicised battle against chief national coach Pullela Gopichand, they’ve been included in the Target Olympic Podium scheme to prepare for the Olympics.
The India’s women basketball team is playing at the 26th FIBA (put on your berets for this: Fédération Internationale de Basket-ball) Asia Championships! FIBA Asia is an international basketball tournament that takes place once in two years. This year’s winners, along with the winners of 2013, will qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup and the Olympics. Follow the tournament here.
Saweety Boora placed second in the light heavyweight category for the Women’s Boxing Championships in Wulanchabu, China this August.
The junior women’s boxing team wasn’t far behind in collecting accolades either. In May this year, Savita, Mandeep Kaur Sandhu and Sakshi won gold in the World Junior Boxing Championship in Taipei, Taiwan in the 50kg, 52kg and 54kg category respectively. Soniya (48kg) and Niharika Gonella (70kg) bagged a silver in their respective categories.
But wait, there’s more!
Earlier in January, the junior team bagged 8 medals in total at the fourth Nations Cup in Vojvodina, Serbia. Soniya (48kg), Mandeep Kaur Sandhu (50kg) and Muskan (60kg) were gold medalists while Anjali Sharma (46kg), Harpreet Kaur Sidhu (54kg) and Shruti Yadav (63kg) came home with silver medals. Riya Tokas (52kg) and Ani Lama (57kg) won bronze medals.
Meanwhile, what’s HC Mary Kom upto? She has her sights firmly set on Rio.
Tania Sachdev, Woman Grandmaster of Chess, clinched a silver at the Asian Continental Women’s Rapid Chess Championship that took place in Al Ain, UAE on August 12. She wasn’t the only Indian to get a medal, though – Woman Grandmaster Dronavalli Harika followed suit and came in third place.
Harika also previously grabbed a bronze at the World’s Women’s Chess Championship that took place in Sochi, Russia on April 6, after making it through to the semifinals.
This July, the Indian women’s cricket team emerged as champions during their One Day International (ODI) series against the Kiwis, winning three out of five games. India also won their first T20 match against New Zealand, but failed to replicate their winnings for the following two matches.
Mithali Raj, the captain, also became the first Indian and second in the world to cross the 5,000 runs mark in the woman’s ODI. (Also LOLOLOL at TOI’s interview with Raj – one of the questions actually ask her about marriage and finding the ‘right man’.)
The BCCI still has to introduce a women cricketing league, much like the Indian Premier League. We’re waiting. But we’re also happy to see more women commentators this year.
A woman on two wheels, Rehana Haji Mohammed who hails from Bangalore, was the only woman who came in second place for the Amby Valley’s ‘Roaring Champions’ night-lit Drag Race, this June. She participated in the M3 Class 100cc – 225cc, 4 stroke category on her Bajaj KTM bike. She was the only woman to receive a medal in the entire race.
Watch her interview with News9 here, a month before she took part in the race.
The Indian team’s goalkeeper, Aditi Chauhan, has been selected to play for a English Premier Club! She joined West Ham Ladies FC in August.
Chauhan isn’t the only Indian team member to be in demand abroad. Legendary senior player Oinam Bembem Devi, Loitongbam Ashalata Devi and Ngangom Bala Devi played in the Maldivian League in May and June. “Our participation in a foreign league will act as a beacon for women’s football in India”, Bala Devi told AIFF.
We really hope Bala Devi’s right. And we hope to see the Indian team at the FIFA Women’s World Cup soon! This year’s World Cup was absolutely thrilling. Here’s footballer Jyoti Burrett on what it will take for India to get there.
In other news, the U-14 girls’ team was having a good run at the Asian Football Confederation Under-14 Championship, until the Nepal earthquake brought things to a terrifying halt. Fortunately, the team returned safely.
17-year-old Aditi Ashok from Bengaluru is on a roll this year. In June, she became the youngest women amateur golfer to win the prestigious St Rule Trophy in Scotland. And she bagged a silver medal during the International European Ladies’ Amateur Championship at Graz, Austria, in July. She is the only Indian golfer who has played the Asian Youth Games, Youth Olympics and Asian Games.
The Hero Women’s Professional Golf Tour just ended last week with Tvesa Malik emerging as the winner. This is her maiden title.
Dipa Karmakar is ‘vaulting’ around (get it, get it?) with a bronze medal she won from the Asian Championships in Hiroshima, Japan last month! Earlier in February she came first for five events during the 35th National Games in Kerala. She also received the Arjuna award. (To know more about this incredible sportsperson, watch her do the Produnova at the Commonwealth Games. And read about why it’s so special.)
India’s women’s hockey team ranks 13th worldwide, according to the International Hockey Federation (FIH). They came in fifth at the Hockey World League Semifinals, this July, and guess what? They’ve qualified for the Rio Olympics! That’s the first time in 36 years that Indian women will be playing at the Olympics. For some gorgeous photographs of the team practicing now in Delhi, head here.
The junior team is also making waves with India’s U-21 hockey team coming in third at the Volvo Invitational Tournament in July in Breda, Netherlands.
For winning the 2012 Women’s World Cup Championships in Patna, Abhilasha Mhatre has received an Arjuna award.
Remember Apurvi Chandela, who won a gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games for rifle shooting? She left a mark when she won a silver at the 10m air rifle event at the ISSF Rifle and Pistol World Cup Finals, earlier this month.
Joshna Chinappa received a gold medal for winning the women’s final of National Squash Championships in July. Chinappa also bagged a bronze in May during the Asian Individual Squash Championship 2015 in Kuwait. She was the only Indian to receive a medal during the championships. Her comrade Dipika Pallikal lost out in the quarter finals.
Pallikal, who is India’s top ranked player and World No. 18, decided to give the Championships another miss this year, like she consistently has for the preceding three years, in protest against the unequal prize money given to male and female players (and no prize money for you either for guessing who gets the shorter end of the stick). “Is it okay for Dipika Pallikal to skip national tournaments?” asked this stupid article. Is it okay for sports journos to ask sexist questions? Hmm?
Skiing and Mountain Climbing
In April this year, 23-year-old twins Nungshi and Tashi Malik, skied to the North Pole.
By doing this, they completed the Explorers Grand Slam, a challenge to reach the North Pole, the South Pole, and to climb the highest peak of each continent – the Seven Summits, which only around 44 people from across the globe have completed so far.
25-year-old Bhakti Sharma set a world record in January, swimming 2.25 km (1.4 miles) in 52 minutes in the Antarctic Ocean (which was a freezing 1°C at the time). She has broken several other multiple records in this feat, including being the youngest and first Indian and Asian in the world to do so. She’s also dipped her feet in other waters, literally, having already swum across four oceans, eight channels and seas. She has been pursuing open water swimming for the past 10 years now.
Sneha Verma won a gold medal for coming in first for the 50m freestyle event for the Special Olympics World Summer Games that was held in Los Angeles in July. The talented Varma, who has Down Syndrome, was selected to represent India on an international platform for the first time.
The Indo-Swiss tennis duo, Sania Mirza and her partner Martina Hingis won the Grand Slams women’s doubles crown in July. Mirza has also been recommended for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award for her incredible feat.
In August, Mirza-Hingis managed to get through to the Roger Cup’s quarterfinals but unfortunately lost out during the semis.
Mirza’s pairing with Hingis has led to constant wins, listed below, and has catapulted her into the world number one position by the WTA (World Tennis Association) ranking. She is the first Indian to receive this title.
Adding to their list of achievements this year:
– Bagged a silver at the Rome Masters women’s doubles final in May
– Won the Family Circle Cup in Charleston in April
– Won the Miami Open women’s doubles in April
– Won the BNP Paribas Open in March
But it doesn’t end there! Earlier this week, Mirza and Hingis won the US Open doubles crown! And with it, their second Grand Slam title. Woohoo! Meanwhile BBC News (World) pretended Mirza played the championships with an invisiblity cloak on, congratulating only Hingis for the win on their Twitter account. Perhaps it was a typo? Or the stress to get news out first? Alas, you think they’d have learned by now, coz they’ve done this before.
And making waves in the junior category, Mahak Jain has been chosen as the wild card entry for Wimbledon Under-18 Championships next year.
For the first time ever, there was an Indian team at the World U23 Ultimate Championships, held in the UK this year. The mixed-gender team of varied backgrounds made a solid debut on the world stage.
What even is Wushu, you ask? It’s a sport derived from Chinese martial arts.Yumnam Sanathoi Devi hopes the Arjuna Award she received last month will help her raise the sport’s profile in the country. She won a bronze at the Incheon Asian Games of 2014.
Have we left out any major women’s sports achievements so far, which you think we should include? Write to us at fingerzine AT gmail DOT com to tell us about it!
Nadia Lewis is a journalism graduate from Manipal University and an intern at The Ladies Finger.