29th August marks National Sports Day in the memory of Dhyan Chand, the great hockey player. Though dedicated to the hockey player, it is meant to be a celebration of sports in our country.
In a country where cricket is religion, other sports tend to get ignored. Despite the limited government support and infrastructure, and the general apathy towards sports, there are many who have battled all odds and overcome challenges to play for the nation.
Among the small percentage of Indians who are into sports there are a number of women as well. Today we celebrate the contribution of women in sports. These are women who have worked hard, taken the path less trodden and represented the country internationally. Some we have heard of and are well known like P.T. Usha, Saina Nehwal, Anju Bobby George, Karnam Malleshwari, Mary Kom, Sania Mirza. Then there are those we have not heard of but their achievements are by no means any less. Let’s hear it from some of these sportswomen about what sports means to them and how it inspires them.
Ishita Malviya, 1st Indian woman surfer
I find myself drawing parallels between surfing and life. I now chase my dreams with the same vigour and passion as I charge into the waves, even if it means wiping-out and facing defeat every once in a while; because I know there’s always going to be another wave coming.
Saina Nehwal, World No. 1 Badminton player
I believe there is no alternative to hard work. Not just in sports but in all facets of life.
Mary Kom, Olympic Bronze medallist in Boxing
In a sportsperson’s life, pressure is always there; you have to learn to deal with it.
Anu Vaidyanathan, 1st Indian to qualify for the Half Ironman World Championships
Sport for me has been a great journey and it has taught me a lot about myself over and over and over again, and as long as I can do it sustainably, I don’t see a reason to stop.
Sania Mirza, World No.1 Womens Doubles Tennis Player
I have always believed that my job is to try and give my best on the tennis courts.
Sneha Sharma, Formula 4 Racer
When I go for racing I have to tell myself I am the only girl, I am a pilot and I am working hard to make live my dream and passion. On dark days, when I have to get up and go to work or race or when I can barely stand, I push myself. I tell myself that I am meant to do this.
Archana Sardana, India’s 1st, woman BASE (Building Aerial Span Earth) jumper.
It helps you explore yourself as an individual. You realise that nothing can be bigger than this universe, it helps you be calm and strong at the same time.
Malathi K. Holla, fastest female Indian athlete on a wheelchair
The biggest trauma about being handicapped is the inferiority complex that creeps in. That is what is crippling really. Sports gave me confidence and the strength to cope with my disability.
Bhakti Sharma, belongs to the only mother-daughter duo to have swam together across English Channel
And yes swimming is not really a celebrated sport in India. I have seen a lot of my fellow swimmer girls quit as they started growing old due to these costume issues, girls used to come from Govt schools without proper costumes and I used to see how difficult it was for them.
Nirupama Vaidyanathan, the winner of National Women’s title 1992-96
Your life as a professional tennis player is measured by a win or a loss every single day of your life. Most of these are losses. And you really learn that you have to get up and try to analyse what went wrong. The most important thing is ‘why’ not ‘what’.