Padma Awards 2020: Patriarchy, move aside
Once dominated by masculinity, sports today in India has successfully traversed the ugly gender divide, at least to a mentionable extent – for the first time, only women have featured across all Padma Award recommendations in sport
The sports ministry has recommended names of nine woman athletes for the Padma Awards viz., Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri. The names of the winners will be announced on the eve of Republic Day, next year. This is the first time that all nominated names are of women players.
These players are inspiring the current generation with exceptional performance across the international sports arena, while bringing tons of pride to the country. In a world dominated by poisonous patriarchy, their ascent to the top has been far from easy – several odds had to be overcome and many more stigmas dismantled, before receiving recognition that was anyway due.
Boxer MC Mary Kom has been recommended for the country's second-highest civilian honor Padma Vibhushan. If the Padma Awards committee confers this honor on Mary, she would be the first woman player in the country to earn this distinction. She has already received the Padma Bhushan in 2013 and Padma Shri in 2006.
Recently crowned world champion, shuttler PV Sindhu has been recommended for Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest honor. In 2017 too Sindhu's name was proposed for Padma Bhushan but she missed the final cut. In 2015, she was awarded the Padma Shri.
At the same time, the sports ministry has sent the names of seven other women players for the Padma Shri Award. These include wrestler Vinesh Phogat, table tennis star Manika Batra, women's T20 cricket captain Harmanpreet Kaur, hockey captain Rani Rampal, shooter Suma Shirur and twin mountaineers Tashi and Nungshi Malik.
MC Mary Kom
Record six-time world champion 36-year-old MC Mary Kom is one player who has never bowed down to the vagaries of age. She refused to join the league of women players who retired after childbirth and has, in the process, become the icon of Indian women's boxing. Now a mother of three, Mary is still raining punches on her opponents in the boxing ring. In 2014, she became the first Indian woman player to win a gold medal in the Asian Games. Miraculously, she achieved the same feat at the Commonwealth Games, four years later, in 2018. India's very own Meethoi Leima (great or exceptional lady) had also won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
She co-authored an autobiography titled Unbreakable with Dina Serto (published in 2013). Mary's unbreakable sporting spirit also drew the silver screen's attention and a successful Bollywood adaptation of her life soon followed.
Mary Kom is also actively involved in various social welfare causes. She has helped many girls enter the boxing world and is also an animal rights activist and supporter of PETA.
PV Sindhu scripted history when she became the first Indian player to win a gold medal at the World Championship after defeating Japan's Naomi Okuhara within an astounding 38 minutes at the final of BWF Badminton World Championship 2019 in Switzerland. Before this, she has already won two silver and two bronze medals at the World Championship.
In 2013, for the first time, Sindhu made her mark in the world badminton arena after winning a bronze in the World Championship. She became a household name after winning the silver medal a Rio Olympics, 2016. She rose to a career-high ranking of number 2 in April 2017. With earnings of $8.5 and $5.5 million in 2018 and 2019 respectively, she featured in the Forbes' list of 'Highest-Paid Female Athletes'.
Hailing from a successful family of wrestlers, Vinesh Phogat became the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold in both Commonwealth and Asian Games of 2018. She is the first Indian to be nominated for the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards. She won a bronze medal at World Championship recently and also qualified for Tokyo Olympics. She is the fourth Indian woman wrestler to win a medal at the World Championship.
T20 captain and all-rounder Harmanpreet is the first woman to score a century in women's T20 International for India. Her knock of 171 against Australia at the 2017 ICC Women's World Cup is now a part of record books. Harmanpreet led India to their sixth straight Asia Cup crown in 2016, without dropping a game. In July 2017, she became the second Indian to feature in the top-10 of ICC Women's ODI Player rankings after Mithali Raj.
She became the first Indian cricketer, male or female, to be roped in by a foreign T20 league. She signed with WBBL team Sydney Thunder in June 2016 and won the franchise's Player of the Tournament award for her all-round show in the debut season. She also became the first Indian to sign with Surrey Stars for the second edition of ECB's Women's Cricket League.
Recently, star forward Rani Rampal was named the captain of the Indian Women's Hockey Team for the England tour. She first stepped on to the hockey turf at a tender age of six. She went on to make her debut in the senior Indian Women's Hockey team at the age of 14 as its youngest player. She is considered one of the best women hockey players in the world and is also well-known as a striker who often doubles up as mid-fielder, Rani was a member of India's Hockey Team when it qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics after 36 years. She had scored the winning goal.
Manika Batra brought India's women's table tennis out of the shadows of men with her record haul of four medals, including two golds, at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia in 2018. It was followed with a bronze at 2018 Asian Games. Currently ranked 47th in the world, she is the only Indian to receive 'The Breakthrough Star Award' by International Table Tennis Foundation.
Suma Shirur is a former Indian ahooter who used to compete in the 10-meter air rifle category. One of the architects of India's shooting revolution, she is now helping construct a new generation as the High-Performance Coach for the junior rifle team. She won one each of a bronze, silver and gold medal for India in the Commonwealth Games. She has also won a bronze and a silver medal in the Asian Games.
Tashi and Nungshi Malik
Tashi and Nungshi hold the Guinness Book World Record as the first twin sisters to climb Mount Everest. Additionally, they are the first twins to scale the Seven Summits – Mt Everest, Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt Elbrus, Mt Aconcagua, Mt Carstensz Pyramid, Mt McKinley, and Mt Vinson Massif. They are also the world's first twins, and youngest women to complete the Explorer Grand Slam and the Three Poles Challenge.