Indian Girls Rock Down Under
From boxing to badminton, weightlifting to shooting—Indian girls have braved several odds to etch a memorable mark at the Commonwealth Games 2018, discusses Kaushikibrata Banerjee.
Indian eves at the Commonwealth Games this year are simply examples of sheer grit, determination and unflinching focus – leaving behind tales of inherent prejudices, discrimination and decadence of thought and practice that have dominated the field of sports for centuries together.
For ages, what has traditionally been a male bastion – the Commonwealth Games 2018, saw an upsurge of women contenders who bunched together shoulder-to-shoulder with their male counterparts, breaking down several man-made barriers. Sports which have been predominantly referred to as the boys' games like weightlifting, wrestling, boxing and shooting saw an influx of women contenders not only competing to their best but also winning several medals for their country. Here, we highlight India's power girls.
To begin with, star weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, who proved to be a class apart from the rest of the field in the women's 48-kilogram category, left her competitors far behind by setting the Games and Commonwealth records in the snatch, clean and jerk as well as the total. She registered 86 kg in the snatch and 110 kg in clean and jerk for a total of 196 kg. Beginning her campaign in style by breaking the existing Games record with a lift of 80 kilograms in her very first attempt in the snatch section, she bettered that in each of her subsequent two attempts.
Chanu produced a similar performance in the clean and jerk too, breaking the existing Games record with her first attempt and subsequently increasing the load. The Manipuri powerhouse, thus, broke six records in each of her six attempts in the competition!
The reigning world champion subsequently surpassed the previous Games record of 175 kg set by Nigeria's Augustina Nwaokolo at the 2010 edition by a considerable distance. Her previous personal best was 194 kg which she had set during her title-winning run at the World Championships last year.
Another Manipuri — Sanjita Chanu — gave India a second gold medal in weightlifting on the second day of the CWG in Gold Coast, Australia. With a nagging back spasm, Chanu created a new world record in the women's 53 kg weightlifting event. She lifted a total of 192 kg weight, which included the 84 kg and 108 kg weight of different rounds.
Sixteen-year-old teen sensation Manu Bhaker secured the gold medal in the 10m air pistol meet at the CWG surpassing her senior Heena Sidhu with a record-breaking victory. Bhaker shot a memorable 240.9 m, well ahead of Sidhu's record which was 234.9 m at the Belmont Shooting Centre.
Sidhu, the 28-year-old dentist, aced an event that is not her strongest suit. She won her second medal of the 2018 Commonwealth Games, taking gold in the women's 25m pistol (Precision/Rapid) finals at the Belmont Shooting Centre.
Another teen shooter, Mehuli Ghosh, secured a silver medal in the 10m women's air rifle category at CWG 2018. In a riveting fight with Singapore's Martina Lindsay Veloso, young Ghosh settled for the silver medal after forcing a shoot-off in the women's 10m air rifle event with a perfect final shot of 10.9, while Apurvi Chandela secured bronze. The 17-year-old shot an excellent 10.9 to take the finals into a shoot-off with Veloso, the eventual gold medallist with a Games record score of 247.2. Ghosh also aggregated a record 247.2 but a 9.9 in the shoot-off halted her hopes of claiming the top prize, as Veloso shot 10.3.
It is understood that Ghosh missed out on gold due to a massive error in judgment. Her coach Joydeep Karmakar said that the youngster thought she had won after her stunning penultimate shot that forced the shoot-off. Jubilation took over the much-needed concentration which resulted in Ghosh losing her focus in the shoot-off.
In a historic feat, Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth defeated the Malaysian duo in the badminton mixed doubles at the CWG 2018. This is the country's first mixed team badminton medal at any edition of CWG. Saina had also won gold in the 2010 CWG in New Delhi and mixed team silver and bronze in 2006 and 2010, respectively.
India scored a 3-1 victory over four-time champion Singapore in the women's table tennis finals.
Manika Batra scripted history after becoming the first Indian woman to win a gold medal in the women's singles event at the CWG 2018 beating Singapore's Yu Mengyu 11-7, 11-6, 11-2, 11-7. Besides, Batra's historic win, Mouma Das and Madhurika Patkar also scripted history by winning doubles in the sport against the Singapore team.
India's ace shooter, Heena Sidhu, won the silver medal for her performance in the 10m air pistol shooting at the CWG 2018. The two-times Olympian had a nerve injury in the trigger finger last year, which had not healed, but overcoming all pain and pressure, she clinched the silver medal. In 25m air pistol, Sidhu broke the Commonwealth record by winning the gold with her stellar show.
From the bylanes of Varanasi to Australia's Gold Coast, Punam Yadav braved all odds to add another gold to India's score. A farmer's daughter, Punam clinched the fifth medal for India by winning the women's 69kg weightlifting event. The 22-year old had earlier won bronze at the 2014 Glasgow weightlifting event. Improving her performance, she marked her success this year by lifting 95, 98 and 100 in the snatch, and then 118 and 122 in the clean and jerk to finish on 122.
Pooja Dhanda finished with a silver medal in the women's 57-kilogram wrestling category for India. She lost 5-7 to defending champion Odunayo Adekuoroye of Nigeria in the final after a tough contest. Divya Kakran settled for a bronze after decimating Bangladesh's Sherin Sultana in the women's 68kg freestyle wrestling.
As Indian shooters set the stage ablaze, Tejaswini Sawant shattered the Games record en route to winning the gold medal, while Anjum Moudgil bagged silver in the women's 50m rifle 3 positions event. In yet another 1-2 finish for India, the 37-year-old Tejaswini shot a CWG record 457.9 in the event's finals, while Moudgil aggregated 455.7 at the Belmont Shooting Centre. Scotland's Seonaid Mcintosh won bronze with 444.6. This is the seventh CWG medal for Tejaswini, following two gold medals in 2006, a pair of silver medals and a bronze in 2010 and as silver in women's 50m rifle prone in the ongoing edition. On the other hand, the 24-year-old Moudgil tasted her first success in the Games while making her maiden appearance.
To top it all, India's most decorated boxer MC Mary Kom defeated Northern Ireland's Kristina O'Hara 5-0 to win the coveted gold in the 45-48kg category at the ongoing Commonwealth Games. This medal took India's tally to 43, with Mary winning boxing's first gold for India in this edition. With this, the mother of three, at the age of 35-years became the first Indian female boxer to win gold at the Commonwealth Games. Enduring multiple breaks and distractions in her career that would have stopped most athletes in their tracks, she continues to lead from the front.
With Indian women crushing the glass ceiling, be it in sports or in any other domain, it is time to throw the hat in the ring. It is time for talent to take centre stage, to build on one's dreams and nurture desires. From the international stage, India's super girls are ushering in a new tomorrow — writing their own destinies, beating the odds, breaking through barriers, making their presence visible and leaving behind a legacy. Shine on, girls!