Be it Hima Das’s journey from the green paddy fields of Assam to winning silver in Asian Games(2018) or Swapna Barman’s iron grit and her promise made to her mother to not return home without a medal, women sportsperson in India have come a long way. 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia stands witness to Indians bagging 69 medals including 15 golds, 24 silvers and 30 bronzes, recording their all time best. Starting from a 16-year old to 60-year old medalists, all has made us immensely proud. But what require special mention in this event of 15 days are the path-breaking performances of a few Indian women.
In 2014 Asian Games, conducted in Incheon, South Korea, Seema Punia, Sania Mirza, Mary Kom, Priyanka Pawar and also the Women’s Kabaddi team bagged gold and left everyone beaming with their unforgettable performances. There was no dearth of Silvers and Bronzes too. However, 2018 Asian Games saw few like Vinesh Phogat(Wrestling) and Rahi Sarnobat (Women’s 25 meter pistol) rising from being bronze medal winners in 2014 to bagging gold medals this time. P.V. Sindhu has also come a long way from wining bronze in 2014 Asian Games for badminton to winning silver medal in 2016 Rio Olympics and bringing home silver in 2018 Asian Games. Hima Das, the 18-year old from Assam sprinted her way to victory with one gold and two silver medals in Women’s 4* 400 and 4*400 meters relay race respectively.
Swapna Barman, hailing from a small town in North Bengal, braving and nursing a severe toothache was the first ever Indian to win gold in heptathlon this year. Stories of Dutee Chand and Pincky Balhara need special mention too. Dutee was dropped out of Indian athletics federation on the grounds of having a medical condition of hyperandrogenism which generates high male hormones in her body, thus considering her not fit to compete with her female opponents. However, Dutee stood her ground and against all odds and adversities she won silver in Women’s 100 meters, India’s first win in 20 years in this particular event. However, the odds were not just heavy on Dutee’s side. Pincky Balhara’s was helped by her village community to raise funds for her training and she came out with flying colors winning silver in Kurash, a debutant sport in Asian Games 2018.
Sports in India comprise some hierarchies in terms of its nature and form, cricket enjoying the most amount of limelight. It is highly gendered too. We have seen infrastructural conditions, training institutions and the cultural mindset of citizens often having adverse impacts on many of these female sportspersons. However, in our course of growing up we all have realized that sports is a great teacher and thus it requires effective effort and support from all to help young women and men walk their paths to glory, leading many like them. Few examples of such have been set by Indian women in Asian Games 2018. They toiled, they cried, they performed. And the rest is history.