World-class performances by India’s female athletes has created a new cohort of national icons
As a nation, India punched well below its weight at the Rio Olympics. By August 20, 2016, the sprawling nation of 1.3 billion had won just two medals, placing it below the likes of tiny Lithuania and struggling Venezuela, which is currently in the pain of a severe economic collapse.
The result is unsurprising. On an average, India spends around $0.005 per head on sports each day, against $0.30 for the U.S., according to a recent Indian parliamentary report. And outside cricket, a game followed with almost religious passion in India, there is little private investment in sports, discouraging participation. As the report noted, most athletes are cautious of pursuing their discipline professionally “because of high risk, uncertainty and low rewards.”
For a country that is too often in the news for the daily violence and social challenges faced by its women, a series of world-class performances by India’s female athletes has created a new generation of national icons. India owes both its medals to women: the wrestler Sakshi Malik, whose bronze-winning performance opened India’s account at the Games, and P.V. Sindhu, whose stunning silver-winning slams in the badminton singles final against Spain’s Carolina Marin kept the entire country on the edge of its seats until the very end.
Dipa Karmakar missed out a medal but won hearts across the country with her performance in the gymnastics contest, by holding fourth position in the individual vault final. Her colleague Lalita Babar became the first Indian woman to qualify for an individual Olympic track event final since 1984. Another star in her field- Aditi Ashok, an 18-year-old from the southern city of Bengaluru, turned up as the youngest contender in the women’s golf contest.
Sakshi Malik ended India’s medal drought at Rio: she picked up the bronze in the 58kg women’s wrestling category, becoming the first Indian woman wrestler and the fourth Indian woman to win an Olympic medal. She hails from a small village in Haryana, a northern state with a dreadful sex ratio of 879 women per 1,000 men – her village actually fares worse. Born to a transport worker father and a government child and primary education care mother, she holds masters degree in physical education, and lives in a two-storey house with a Volkswagen Polo in the front porch. The village’s only Subway sandwich franchise is run by her brother.
Malik was born on 3 September 1992 in Mokhra village of Haryana’s Rohtak district. She is born to Sukhbir, a bus conductor with Delhi Transport Corporation, and Sudesh Malik, a supervisor at a local anganwadi (health clinic). She was motivated to take up wrestling from seeing her grandfather Badhlu Ram, who was also a wrestler. She began training in wrestling at the age of 12 under a coach, Ishwar Dahiya. She started training at anakhara in Chhotu Ram Stadium, Rohtak. Her coach and she had to face opposition from the locals for having taken up a sport that was not feminine.
Malik’s first success as a professional wrestler in the international arena happened in 2010 at the Junior World Championships where she won the bronze medal in the 58 kg freestyle event. She won gold in 60 kg category at the 2014 Dave Schultz International Tournament.
Malik began her campaign at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games winning her quarterfinal spell against Edwige Ngono Eyia of Cameroon by a 4–0 margin. In the semifinal, she faced Braxton Stone of Canada whom she beat 3–1 to assure herself of a medal.
Malik was qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics by defeating China’s Zhang Lan in the semifinal of the 58 kg category at the Olympic World qualifying tournament in May 2016.
P V Sindhu is an Indian professional badminton player. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, she became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic silver medal. P V Sindhu born 5 July 1995 came to international attention when she broke into the top 20 of the BWF World Ranking in September 2012 at the age of 17. In 2013, she became the first Indian women’s singles player to win a medal at the Badminton World Championships. she became the youngest recipient of India’s fourth highest civilian honor, the Padma Shri in March 2015. Her silver medal win in the women’s singles event of the 2016 Summer Olympics made her the first Indian shuttler to reach the final of an Olympics badminton event and the youngest Indian to make a podium finish in an individual event at the Olympics.
The win against Wang Yihan set the Semi final match with the Japanese player Nozomi Okuhara, who went down 0-2, ensuring Sindhu a podium finish. This set stage for her final showdown with World’s No. 1 and Top seeded Spaniard Carolina Marín. The 83-minute match resulted in favour of the Spaniard against Indian, 2-1 games eventually Sindhu clinching a Silver Medal. She penned history of achieving the feat as she is youngest and first women individual to bag Olympic Silver medal representing India.
Dipa Karmakar, India’s first female gymnast at the Olympics, just lost out on a medal, finishing fourth in the women’s vault gymnastics, and winning the hearts of a nation. Dipa Karmakar who was born on 9th August 1993 is an artistic gymnast who represented India at the 2016 Summer Olympics. She is the first Indian female gymnast ever to compete in the Olympics, and the first Indian gymnast to do so in 52 years. She attained 4th position in Women’s Vault Gymnastics event of Rio Olympics 2016 with an overall score of 15.066.
She first gained attention when she won a bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow becoming the first Indian woman gymnast to do so in the history of the Games. She is sponsored by the GoSports Foundation.
Karmakar is one of the five women who have successfully landed the Produnova, the most difficult vault currently performed in women’s gymnastics. She also won a bronze medal at the Asian Gymnastics Championships and finished fifth at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, both first for her country.
Dipa Karmakar achieved history in April when she became the first Indian female gymnast to qualify for the Olympics and the first gymnast of either sex from her country to grace the Games since Tokyo 1964.
Karmakar, a girl belonging to a Bengali family hailing from Agartala in Tripura started practicing gymnastics when she was 6 years old and has been trained by Soma Nandi & Bisweshwar Nandi since.
When she began gymnastics, Karmakar had flat feet, an adverse physical trait in a gymnast because it affects their performance. Through extensive training, she was able to develop an curve in her foot.
In 2008, she won the Junior Nationals in Jalpaiguri. Since 2007, Karmakar has won 77 medals that included 67 gold, in state, national and international championships. She took part in the Indian gymnastics contingent at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, where Ashish Kumar won India’s first-ever Commonwealth Games gymnastics medal.
Lalita Babar won rank 10 in women’s steeple chase in Rio Olympics. She was born in 2 June 1989 and is an Indian long-distance runner. She was born in a small village in the Satara district of Maharashtra. . She was born in an area which was regularly affected by droughts, which adversely affects the agriculture in the area.
For Babar, becoming a professional sportswoman was in itself a victory against the difficulties. Hailing from a poor, drought-prone region of western India, Babar’s decision to pursue running was initially met with resistance from her family, which worried about the economic costs of her choices. Her father was concerned about inadequate rain as it affects their crops. The family thought Lalita’s decision to make a career in sports would be an economic burden on the family.
Babar was named as the Sports Person of the Year in the India Sports Awards 2015 organised by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports of India. She is currently supported by Anglian Medal Hunt Company.
Babar started her career in athletics as a long-distance runner at a young age. She won her first Gold medal in the U-20 National Championships at Pune in 2005.
She is currently supported by Anglian Medal Hunt Company, a sports management company based in New Delhi. Babar began her career in track and field athletics as a long-distance runner.
In 2014, she became the hat-trick winner of the Mumbai Marathon. Determined to win a medal in multi-discipline events like the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, she switched to 3000 metres steeplechase in January 2014, following her win at the marathon.
Aditi Ashok was born on 29 March 1998 and is an Indian professional golfer who has qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Aditi made record for being the youngest and first Indian to win the Lalla Aicha Tour School and therefore secure her Ladies European Tour card for the 2016 season. This win also made her the youngest winner of a Q School for an international tour. Aditi is the first and the only Indian golfer who played the Asian Youth Games (2013), Youth Olympic Games (2014), Asian Games (2014) and Rio Olympics (2016).