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These 13 female pioneers in sports in India have established a benchmark for excellence in sports, and are a huge inspiration for everyone.
Do you know that Cricketer Mithali Raj was the first woman to score a double hundred in Test Cricket? Or that Alisha Abdullah – India’s first F1 women racer? There are many more such female pioneers in sports that we may not know as well as those in the more popular ones like cricket.
Indian women have proven their mettle in sports too, along with other fields that were traditionally considered male bastions, and it’s amazing to see that our women have left no stone unturned in reaching such heights. Today, women are becoming pioneers in many fields. Here we bring to you 13 female pioneers in sports in India.
First Indian woman to win an Olympic silver medal
Pusarla Venkata Sindhu took her game to the global league, where she became the first Indian sportswoman to win a silver in badminton, and then reached the finals in the Olympics 2016.
She is currently world no. 2 in the BWF World Ranking. She is one of the two Indian badminton players to ever win an Olympic medal, the other being Saina Nehwal. She won the All England Open Badminton Championship in 2001. She has also secured her career-best rank in quick succession, after winning the India Open Superseries, held on April 2, 2017.
India’s First woman to play professional Poker
Muskan Sethi is India’s first female professional poker player, thriving in a male-dominated sport with her exceptional skills.
She has represented India at many prestigious championships around the globe. She is also a social worker who contributes most of her award prizes, resources, and time to charity.
Sethi is currently developing a project for animals and is actively involved with various organisations.
First ODI captain of the first-ever Indian women’s cricket team
Diana Edulji was drawn to sports at an early age, and represented India from 1975 to 1995. She holds the record for delivering the most number of balls by any woman cricketer in Women’s test history (5098+). She captained India for the World Cup in 1978 and 1993.
Diana was conferred the Arjuna Award in 1983 and the Padma Shri in 2002.
India’s first F1 women racer, India’s first female national racing champion
Alisha Abdullah is India’s first F1 women racer and India’s first female national racing champion. She is an avid biker and the fastest Indian car racer.
Alisha began her racing career when she was just eight, and when she turned 25, she had spent almost 13 years on the racing track. She has won MRF National Go-Karting Championship and the Best Novice Award in National Level Formula Car Racing in the open class. Alisha finished the JK Tyre National Championship of 2004 at the fifth spot.
First Indian woman to reach the final of an Olympic event
Since 1979, P.T. Usha has been associated with Indian athletics and is the first Indian woman to reach the final of an Olympic event early in 1984. She is popularly known as the Payyoli Express.
She runs the Usha School of Athletics at Koyilandy in Kerala. She is regarded as one of the greatest athletes India has ever produced and is often called the “queen of Indian track and field”.
P.T. Usha currently holds the world record for the most gold medals earned by a female athlete in a single track meet.
First woman cricketer to go to record the 6000-run mark
Indian skipper Mithali Raj has become the first player in the history of women’s ODI cricket to have crossed 6000 career runs. Mithali reached the milestone in India’s ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 match against Australia. She is now the all-time highest run-scorer in women’s cricket, surpassing the record previously held by England’s Charlotte Edwards.
Mitali is also the first woman to score a double hundred in Test Cricket (214* against New Zealand at Wellington, 2004). She was the first to achieve this landmark in the world.
First female Grandmaster, Chess
Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman is the first female player in India to hold the FIDE titles of Woman Grandmaster and International Master.
Subbaraman has won more medals than any other player for India in the Chess Olympiads. In 1996 she was awarded the Woman International Master title at the FIDE Zonal tournament in Chennai. Subbaraman became the first Indian to achieve the title of Woman Grandmaster (WGM) in 2001. She also won the title of International Master (IM) at the Chess Olympiad 2000. In 2001, the Government of India honored her with the Arjuna Award.
First Indian badminton player to win an Olympic medal
India is fortunate to have had many great women, who are playing stellar role in their respective fields. Saina Nehwal, is an inspiration to many. She is the only Indian to have won a medal in every major Badminton World Federation individual event. She is the first Indian badminton player to win an Olympic medal, along with being the only Indian to have won the BWF World Junior Championships.
In 2006, Nehwal became the first Indian woman and the youngest Asian to win a 4-star tournament and won Super Series title. Later in 2015, she became the first Indian woman to secure a No. 1 position in world rankings. In 2016, Government honored her contribution with Padma Bhushan and she was also conferred with Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the Arjuna Award.
First Indian woman to win a medal in Asian Games 2014 for boxing
Indian sporting legend Chungneijang Mary Kom Hmangte has won many accolades for the country. She is an Olympic Indian boxer and is a five-time World Amateur Boxing champion. She is the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each of the six world championships. She is called ‘Magnificent Mary’.
Mary Kom became the first Indian woman boxer to fetch a Gold Medal in the Asian Games in 2014 at Incheon, South Korea.
First Indian woman to be ranked no.1 in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Doubles rankings
Sania is a professional tennis player who was formerly ranked No. 1 in the women’s doubles rankings.
In her singles career, Mirza has notable wins over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva, and Marion Bartoli as well as former world No. 1 players Martina Hingis, Dinara Safina, and Victoria Azarenka. She is the highest-ranked female player ever from India, peaking at world No. 27 in singles in mid-2007. She has achieved a number of firsts for women’s tennis in her native country, including winning a singles Prolevel title, winning six major titles.
First Indian woman wrestler to win an Olympic medal.
Sakshi’s momentous victory in the 58 kg category at the 2016 Summer Olympics made every Indian proud. She became the first Indian female wrestler to win a medal at the Olympics. She is also the fourth female Indian athlete to win an Olympic medal.
In the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland Sakshi also won the silver medal in the 58kg category. She fetched the bronze medal at the 2015 Senior Asian Wrestling Championships in the 60kg in Doha, and won silver in the women’s 60kg category at the Senior Asian Wrestling Championships 2017.
First Indian woman gymnast to qualify for the Rio Olympics in 52 years
Dipa Karmakar, at the age of 22, became the first Indian woman gymnast to qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016, and also became the first Indian woman gymnast ever to qualify for Olympic Games. She re-created history after 52 years.
Dipa was also the first Indian to qualify for the finals of World Gymnastics Championships 2015. Her first accolades came at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games where she won a bronze medal. In the same year, she won the bronze at the Asian Championships in Hiroshima, Japan
First Indian weightlifter to win an Olympic medal
Karnam Malleswari is the first woman Olympic medallist in weightlifting representing India, famously known as the Iron Lady of India.
Malleswari won the World title in the 54 kg division in 1994 and 1995, and placed third in 1993 and 1996. In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, she lifted 110 kg in the ‘snatch’ and 130 kg in ‘clean and jerk’ for a total lift of 240 kg. She was honoured with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 1995 and received the Padma Shri Award in 1999. In a career span of almost a decade and half, Ms. Karnam Malleswari has bagged 41 Gold medals, 15 Silver medals, 8 Bronze medals, including 1 Olympic Bronze medal and 6 national records.
Woman have achieved great heights in every field out there, and female pioneers in sports in India haven’t stayed behind either. If you know any other female pioneers in sports, then do share with us in the comments.
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