They are never taken seriously in our country, they are never given their dues, they are never nurtured, they are never provided with the right resources and they are neglected and only remembered every four years, just so they can put our country on the tally list. The odds are stacked up against them and miracles are expected of them. Their hard work is never acknowledged. But these four women beat the odds. Their achievements eclipsed all the naysayers.
Olympics have been heartbreaking for most Indians, the stalwarts losing out and our medal chances diminishing. But the women took charge; they boldly went where only a few men have gone before. These four women, Dipa Karmakar, Sakshi Malik, PV Sindhu and Aditi Ashok, created history and etched their names at Rio 2016 Olympics.
Dipa karmakar, the first female gymnast from India to compete in the Olympics, came 4th in the Vaults finals. She attempted the very dangerous Produnova technique, the one technique that gymnasts rarely apply. Gymnasts can break their necks or even die attempting it, and yet she did it. She trained on a makeshift springboard made of scooter parts. She was also flat-footed as a child but her coach trained her into getting a curve on the foot. And in spite of all these odds, she came fourth. She may not have won the medal, but she won all our hearts. She made a cricket crazed billion people sit up and watch Gymnastics.
Sakshi malik comes from Haryana, the state with a negative female to male ratio, the state where girls are not supposed to be in sports, especially in wrestling, the male dominated sport. Yet she became a wrestler. She not only qualified for the Olympics, she won the first medal for us; becoming the first woman wrestler to win a medal. A bronze medal, but a historic achievement nevertheless. She came back from behind in her last two matches and confidently took away the Bronze. Her win is inspiring for all the girls out there who are told that a sport is not their place to be in.
PV Sindhu, the quiet and shy girl from Hyderabad blossomed into an aggressive valiant Badminton player, all thanks to her coach P. Gopichand. She gained lots of grit and confidence, to win the very first Silver in Badminton for India. She also became the only woman ever to have won Silver for us. She came back from behind to beat an exceptional Japanese player in the semifinals to play against the World No. 1, Carolina Marin in the Gold Medal match. She played so beautifully in the final, she won the first game and fought but lost in the second and third. She gave her heart and soul to the match; she battled and never let her guard down. But it isn’t easy beating the worlds best, and she won the Silver. She showed amazing sportsmanship when despite losing, she helped Marin up and picked up and kept her racket which she had left behind. She showed courage in the face of a loss. Though this really wasn’t a loss, she did win; not just Silver, but also a billion hearts back home.
Aditi Ashok, an 18 year old, played her first ever Olympics this year, after qualifying in the Golf championships. Golf is just slowly picking up in India, where players like Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa and Sharmila Nicollet have shined in the international arena. Aditi being the Only Indian golfer at the Olympics, made a terrific run before finishing up fourth so far. Hopes are up that she finishes in the top 10. No medal for her, but her gritty performance, being just 18 years old, in an event newly introduced in the Olympics, is a warning that, come next time, she would progress even farther. It’s not easy being out there representing her country in a sport that is not cricket. She made us all proud with her performance.
These four women have scaled heights that only a few get a chance to. I hope that someday more and more such women take up these lesser known sports and bring us more glory. Their hard work and toil is a testament to the fact that they keep on winning several world championships and tournaments in their respective sports. But they go fairly unnoticed and their conditions never change. They have inspired the women of India, to always have faith in them, to stand up for themselves and do what they want. What Sania Mirza did for tennis in India, these women will do for Gymnastics, wrestling, Badminton and Golf; and many other lesser known sports.
I hope that the corporates begin funding these athletes from the grass root level, so that they can be nurtured and trained. Before expecting medals from them, I hope they get what they need to get us the medals. I hope the parents realize the importance of sports and encourage their daughters to pursue their dreams in sports. I hope the mindset of the general public changes soon and we see more and more such inspiring women soaring sky high, all the while making this country soar sky high too.
And not to forget, Saina Nehwal and Vinesh Phogat, who lost out because of injuries and Lalita Babar who qualified for the final in 3000m steeplechase. Saina, the Bronze medalist in the 2012 London Olympics sustained a knee injury for which she will require a surgery according to the latest reports. Vinesh, one of the three famous Phogat sisters, who are all wrestlers and who also belong to Haryana, had to face immense pressure when they chose wrestling as their career. I wish them both a speedy recovery so that we can see them in action soon.Lalita Babar was exceptional in qualifying for the finals in an event dominated by the African origin women, who are amazing runners. It surely isn’t easy to achieve this feat, Iam happy she went out there and gave it all.
Hats off to these inspiring women, and to all the athletes who competed in the Rio 2016 Olympics, my deepest respect goes out to them! They pushed the boundaries and proved to us that they are the true heroes and heroines of our country.