The world of sports has largely been dominated by men in India, which also meant that the nation’s sporting heroes were dominated by a gender. But this year, women athletes broke stereotypes to outshine their male counterparts in their respective sports and made a mark in a mostly misogynist society. This sportswomen have battled to the top and are now household names in the nation.
Here are the top women athletes of India who came up with consistent performances throughout the year:
PV Sindhu has perhaps become the most popular non-cricketing athlete in India. Since Rio Olympics 2016, she has consistently been performing well, but this year, the Hyderabadi shuttler became the first Indian to win a gold at BWF World Badminton Championships. The Indian beat rival Nozomi Okuhara 21-7, 21-7 in Basel on August 25, in a clash that lasted just 38 minutes.
I could not hold back my tears when I saw the Indian flag 🇮🇳 and heard the National anthem playing. Words can’t express my feelings about yesterday’s win at the World Championship. Had been preparing for it for so… https://t.co/5UsuN4kWT0
— Pvsindhu (@Pvsindhu1) August 26, 2019
Sindhu is also the joint-most successful women’s singles shuttler at the Worlds, having won five medals in just six appearances. She is now ranked 13th in the world among the highest-paid woman athletes of the year, according to Forbes. And is among India’s biggest Olympic gold-medal hopes at Tokyo 2020.
With Tokyo in her sights, Sindhu’s performances struggled during the business-end of major tournaments, and she failed to defend her title at the year-end World Tour Finals. However, she reached the finals of Indonesia Open and made semi-final appearances at the Singapore Open and India Open.
The boxer has not only emerged as an inspiration for the women of the country in a sport more popular among men, but is also seen as the face of Indian boxing, with Vijender Singh from Haryana perhaps being the closest in terms of popularity. Her story of struggle and success has already inspired a Bollywood movie, she’s a Rajya Sabha MP, and this year there were more achievements.
.@MangteC’s record breaking feat!
She becomes the most successful boxer in World Championship history by securing her 8th medal. The country is so proud of you.@KirenRijiju @RijijuOffice @PIB_India@ddsportschannel @BFI_official#KheloIndia #boxing pic.twitter.com/yAtqGaVjee
— SAIMedia (@Media_SAI) October 10, 2019
‘Magnificient Mary’ won her 8th World Championship medal (bronze) in the 51 kg category in Ulan Ude, becoming the most successful boxer, both men and women, in the history of the competition. She and Cuban men’s legend Felix Savon were tied on seven medals after she won the gold in the 48 kg category in New Delhi last year.
The mother of three, who also won gold medals at the India Open in Guwahati and President’s Cup in Indonesia this year, has her eyes set on Tokyo, which is probably her last appearance at the Olympics. In an interview to The Indian Express this year, she admitted that retirement was on the horizon with much more time “at the academy and the church.”
The Phogat family has re-written the script of wrestling in India and Vinesh is a major part of it. A part of India’s best-known family of women wrestlers, the 25-year old Haryana star bagged bronze at the World Wrestling Championships, assuring herself of an Olympic berth.
The Asiad and Commonwealth Games gold-medallist has worked hard to rise to her career-best World Ranking of No. 2 in the 53kg category, a recent shift from 50kg. Vinesh is the fifth Indian woman wrestler to win a World Championship medal after Alka Tomar (2006), Geeta Phogat (2012), Babita Phogat (2012) and Pooja Dhanda (2018).
Vinesh Phogat bags World Championship bronze, Olympic quota #WrestleNurSultan
— Express Sports (@IExpressSports) September 19, 2019
The Arjuna Awardee won three consecutive gold medals this year in Asian Wrestling Championships, in Yasar Dogu International and in Poland Open Wrestling Tournament respectively.
In July 2019, sprinter Hima Das participated in a series of competitions as part of her preparations for the Olympics, winning five gold medals in less than 20 days across Poland and the Czech Republic. Four of her victories came in the 200m sprint while her fifth top-podium finish was in the 400m event. While the celebrated victories came in lower level meets and raised questions about injury management, Das remains one of India’s brightest hopes in athletics.
The 19-year-old from the village of Dhing in Assam made it to the ‘Forbes India 30 Under 30’ list and has used her influence beyond sports by becoming the country’s first youth ambassador to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) India.
Dutee Chand might be a runner by profession but she’s clearly not used to running away from adversity. The 23-year old decided to come out of the closet despite it sparking a dispute with her family, and became India’s first openly gay athlete.
In an exclusive interview to The Indian Express in May, Chand said, “I have found someone who is my soulmate. I believe everyone should have the freedom to be with whoever they decide they want to be with. I have always supported the rights of those who want to be in a same-sex relationship. It is an individual person’s choice. Currently, my focus is on the World Championships and the Olympic Games but in the future I would like to settle down with her.”
Morning training sessions pic.twitter.com/jIx6Q3Nrnq
— Dutee Chand (@DuteeChand) December 4, 2019
The national record-holder became the first Indian woman track and field athlete to win a gold medal in women’s 100-metre sprint at the Summer University Games in Naples, Italy this July. She’s only the second Indian sprinter to win a gold in a global event.
🏅 Picked it up! pic.twitter.com/Qwci6Uz5Yr
— Dutee Chand (@DuteeChand) July 9, 2019
In August, the sprinter won another gold medal at the 100m event of the 5th Indian Grand Prix. She then broke her own national record, clocking 11.22 seconds in the women’s 100m semi-finals at the National Open Athletics Championships in Ranchi in October.
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