Indian Women at Rio- Creating History, Despite Obstacles

Rio Olympics 2016 ended gloriously a few days ago,  with many nations doing stupendously well, across different sports. Once again, India was in the limelight for bad administration, lack of support for sportspersons and poor overall performances.

While much is being said and debated about the state of Indian sports, today we would like to honour the women athletes, who gave stellar performances and created history in their own ways, despite the odds being stacked against them.

Noted lyricist, poet and scriptwriter Prasoon Joshi, shared a poem he wrote, honouring the women who have made India proud at Rio, and we couldn’t agree more with the words he has penned.

While Sakshi Malik was the first to secure a medal in the Indian kitty with her bronze for women’s 58 kg freestyle wrestling, PV Sindhu became the first Indian woman to secure a silver in badminton singles. Gymnast Dipa Karmakar created history by being the first Indian woman to reach the finals of an Olympic gymnastics event, and narrowly missed a bronze medal, by coming 4th in the Vaults final.

Athlete Lalita Babar finished 10th in the finals of Women’s 3000 meter Steeplechase. She created history, as she became the first woman in 32 years, after PT Usha, to represent India in finals of athletics. Golfer Aditi Ashok, only 18 years old, was the youngest player in the golf field at Rio, and the only female golfer representing India. We would also like to here mention Deepa Malik, who is the only Indian woman to participate in this year’s Paralympics, to be held at Rio, in September.

girls of rio

Sports in India is an oft neglected domain, and while the central and state governments are now heaping praises and awards and rewards alike on all these women, we would like to point out that the infrastructure and facilities provided to sportspersons must be bettered for us to be world champions. One of the primary causes of conern is that it is politicians and not sportspersons, who are on governing bodies of sports committees. Only one sports association (SA)–the Athletics Federation of India–has a former national athlete as president. Only nine SAs have former or present players on their governing bodies. Since 1920, when India first started sending its contingent to the Olympics, we have won only 24 medals, a feat which is achieved by countries like China, Korea, Jamaica, and others, in one year. As per a report published by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, only 63 per cent of primary schools and 66 per cent of upper primary schools had playgrounds. If all schools, including secondary and senior secondary schools, are taken into account, only 60 per cent had playgrounds. Lack of proper training, poor infrastructure, neglecting sports in school curricula, and a culturally ingrained apathy and ignorance towards sportspersons, is stopping us from being a superpower, in more ways than one.

Although female participation in sports has been on the rise since the past few decades, reflecting changes taking place in societies across the world, it is important to note that level of participation and performance still varies greatly by country and by sport. India has been lagging far behind in terms of encouraging women in sports, due to inherent patriarchy and stereotypes against women. It is high time that women are encouraged as much as men are, to play and compete professionally. After all, this year, it is the women who made us proud Indians at the world’s biggest sporting extravaganza!

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