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These 8 Indian women athletes have proved their mettle in the international scene again and again, even with meagre support from our sports authorities, and often against the strictures of patriarchy.
We might all have heard about Anju Bobby George, but do we know that she is India’s first and only Senior World Champion at IAAF World Athletics Final? Or how many know of Ekta Bhyan who competes in discus throw in the Paralympics and has a gold to her name?
By definition, athletics include track events, throw events like discus and javelin throws, jumps like long and high jumps, hurdles like heptathlons and decathlons, and cross country runs like marathons. So despite them being highly inspiring sportswomen, gymnasts like Dipa Karmakar, shooters like the now very well known Tomar women, and racing drivers like the multitalented Sneha Sharma do not qualify to be Indian women athletes.
Also to note are that most Indian women athletes have hailed from demographics that are patriarchal, restrictive of their women, and as has been happening, with next to nil state support or any support from the Sports authorities who are more focused on men’s sports. Despite this, these inspiring Indian women athletes have placed India on the world sports map.
Here is a list of 8 Indian women athletes who have smashed records as well as patriarchy.
Hailing from Odisha, Dutee Chand is a professional sprinter and is the current national champion in women’s 100 meters race. As a young child, she sprinted along the banks of the Brahmani.
She is the third woman from the country to have ever qualified for the women’s 100 meters event at the Summer Olympics Game. She became a national champion in the under 18 category when she finished the race at 11.2 seconds in 2012. In 2019, she became the first Indian sprinter to have won a gold at the Universiade.
She is also the first Indian athlete who has openly come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Fondly called as the Golden Girl of Indian Athletics, any list of Indian women athletes is incomplete without the mention of her name.
She is a retired track and field athlete and has been associated with Indian athletics since 1979. She has been felicitated with an Arjuna award, a Padma Shri and a D.Litt from the University of Calicut in 2018.
In the 1984 Olympics at Los Angeles, she was the first Indian to reach the finals of the 400m hurdle but she lost the bronze by just one-hundredth of a second! She also entered the Moscow Olympics as the youngest athlete. In the 1982 Asiad Games she bagged two medals. At the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul where she won 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles, and the 4x400m relay.
P.T. Usha has worked for the Indian Railways, and currently runs the Usha School of Athletics.
Ashwini Nachappa, referred to as India’s FloJo, is also known to have outrun P.T. Usha on two separate occasions. She has also represented India in the World Athletics Championships twice, and was part of the relay team. She is an Arjuna award winner, and has 4 silver medals and 2 gold to her name at various South East Asian Federation games, and a silver at the Asian Games in 4 x 100 relay.
Ashwini Nachappa is also known as the actor who featured herself in a biographical movie named Ashwini, and has acted in a few other Telugu movies. She is currently the president of the Bangalore Urban District Athletics Association
She is the one who put Indian women athletes firmly on the senior World Athletics Championships map in 2003, when she won the bronze for her long jump. She remains the only one among Indian women athletes, in fact the only Indian athlete to have won anything at the Senior World Athletics Championships!
Anju Bobby George is a winner of the Padma Shri and the Arjuna award for athletics.
As of 2019, she is the second fastest Asian sprinter in the top 10 under 20 runners. She comes from Assam and her coach saw the unbridled potential she has as a runner. She is nicknamed ‘Dhing Express’. She is the first ever Indian athlete to win a gold medal in any format of a global track event at IAAF World U20 Championships when she clocked a speed of 51.46 seconds.
Bannerghatta Biological Park has a tigress cub named ‘Hima’ after her. She was felicitated by the Arjuna award in 2018. Das also won 200m gold at the Kladno Athletics Meet in the Czech Republic in 23.43 seconds which has been one of her best records.
This athlete from Kerala is a middle distance runner and 1500m is her forte. She won the gold in 2017 Asian Athletics Championship with a record of 4.17.92 seconds. She has won many medals on both the national and international front.
Her parents are daily wage labourers who perform menial jobs to make ends meet. She has even slept on an empty stomach but that did not deter her from her practice the next morning.
By winning a gold at the 2018 Asian Games, Swapna Barman made everyone talk about the heptathlon- combination of track and field events contest made up of seven individual events. She is a heptathlete.
Hailing from Jalpaiguri, she has worked on tea estates with her mother. She has six toes on both her feet. She won a gold despite her jaw injury. She has performed in many national and international events such as the Incheon, Gelora Bung, and Doha.
Ekta Bhyan represents India in women’s club and discus throw events as a para athlete.
Ekta damaged her spinal cord in 2003 after she met with a road accident. She took up sports to get her fitness back on track. She won the Gold in 2018 at Jakarta in the Asian Para Games. She has participated in the World Para Athletics Championships, IPC Grand Prix, and National Para Athletics Championships. She was awarded the para athlete of the year for 2018 by ESPN.
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