Did you know that the world number one rank in a particular sport is held by a sportswoman from your country? Nope, we’re not referring to Sania Mirza in Tennis’ doubles rankings. There’s another sportswoman out there, doing us proud internationally. Did you also know that a woman from your country became the first Indian amputee to scale five of the highest peaks in the world? Or that a woman is carrying forward the legacy Sachin Tendulkar created for India in international cricket?
Read on to learn about some of the finest talent that the Indian soil has produced, who created little buzz in the same country they have wanted to do proud at the world’s most prestigious forums.
1. Dutee Chand
“I put my head out if the gutter for one second and fate shovels s**t in my face.” This line from GTA Vice City is the best description of the career of one of our most gifted athletes – Dutee Chand. She became the national champion in the under-18 category when she clocked 11.8 seconds in the 100 metres event. In the 2013 World Youth Championships,she was also the first Indian to reach the global athletics 100 meters final. She beat her own best, clocking 11.73 seconds in the final in 100 metres and a 23.73 second in 200 metres at the National Senior Athletics Championships in Ranchi. However, even before her walk of fame could begin, she was embroiled in a controversy and was prevented from competing in the Commonwealth Games due to a condition called ‘hyperandrogenism’. However, women’s rights activists and her contemporaries, like Santhi Soundarajan, protested this ruling. As the federation reconsiders the rule, Dutee has been allowed to race again.
2. Mithali Raj
What Sachin is to men’s cricket, Mithali Raj is to the women’s wing of the sport. Head Honcho of the current women’s cricket team, she is not only India’s finest but also the world’s – having entered the 2013 World Cup at the No. 1 spot in the ODI rankings. The cricketer’s first test, at the age of 17,was a century and then some; her third broke the record of highest individual score – which was held by Karen Rolton’s 209 – with a slightly more robust 214. Having won a Padma Shri and an Arjuna, she is a formidable figure on the crease as she has led the Indian team to several victories and finals, often without dropping a single game along the way.
3. Arunima Sinha
Anurima Sinha knew she was destined for scaling athletic heights, and an accident in which she lost her limbs didn’t hurt her odds. She was a national level volleyball player already going places, when she was pushed off a moving train by some thieves, and had one of her legs amputated. But she bounced back and trained herself to become the first Indian amputee to climb the Mount Everest, where she also hoisted our flag. She aspires to climb all the continents’ highest peaks and sink the national flag of India in their terrain.So far, she has successfully climbedfive peaks, namely, the Everest in Asia, Kilimanjaro in Africa, Elbrus in Europe, Kosizko in Australia, and Aconcagua in Argentina.
4. Ritu Raani
The Vidya Sharma of the real Indian Hockey team, Ritu Rani has skippered the national squad for half a decade. The youngest on a senior team, Ritu proved her mettle time and again; first as the top scorer in 2009’s Champion’s Challenge II, and then leading the team to third place in 2013 and 2014 at the Asia Cup 2013 and Asian Games 2014. Currently, she’s given the country reason to be cheerful for the first time since the 1980 Olympics, for the girls have qualified to take on Rio this year!
5. Dipika Pallikal
The sport of squash itself is yet to come of age in India, but within it, a star has already formed from the dust. Dipika
Pallikal in her decade-long career has set in motion a flurry of records, trends, and stands. Dipika became a professional player in 2006 at the age of 15.She first tasted prominence in 2011, when she won three WISPA tour titles to clinch a career-best ranking of 13. She became the firstIndian woman squash player to have broken into the top 10 ranks in the WSA, with six titles at the level. At the2014 Commonwealth Games, Dipika along withcontemporary Joshna Chinappawon gold in squash women’s doubles for the first time in the Indian Commonwealth squash history.She could have milked this popularity, but chose instead, to go with her ideals and opted out of the country’s National Championship Squash Competition four times in a row opposing unequal prize money between male and female players.
6. Shikha Tandon
She jumped into the pool to keep her brother company, as he was advised to swim to combat his asthma. Little did she know that the pool was about to change both their lives. She came up to speed – literally and figuratively – soon enough, and was spotted for her flair at the age of 12. She competed in her first world championship at the age of 13. By the age of 17, she broke the Indian women’s 50freestyle record, with a time of 26.61seconds, at the 57th Senior National Aquatic Championship. Being declared best swimmer three years in a row there, she won 146 national medals and 36 medals in international competitions, including five gold medals, which also made her a fitting recipient of the Arjuna Award
7. Heena Sidhu
Raining bullets with fish-eye precision turned Heena Sidhu into the reigning queen in International shooting. As an aceIndianshooter, Heena is the first Indian Pistol shooter to be ranked World No.1bythe world body in the sport –International Shooting Sport Federation, when she walked away with the gold at their 2013World CupFinal-Pistol in the10 metre Air Pistolevent. After Anjali Bhagwat and Gagan Narang, she is the third Indian to pull off this feat. She also kept the gold right here at home, along with her partner Annu Raj Singh in women’s Pairs 10 metre air pistol at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. She also holds the Finals World record in 10 metre air pistol event with a final score of 203.8. She was the first Indian ace to grace the ISSF magazine’s cover page ever since the National Rifle Association of India was formed on April17, 1951.
8. Humpy Koneru
Humpy was originally named Hampi – the core of the word ‘Champion’. She became the first Indian female player to win the National Children Chess Championship, which is a National Boys title, in the year 2000.The Gudivada born wiz also became the youngest woman ever to achieve the title of grandmaster. In 2007, she became the second female player, afterJudit Polgár, to exceed the 2600Elo rating mark, by snagging 2606. She ranksNo. 2 in theFIDE World Rankings. She has won us various international medals, and made the quarters of the World Women’s Chess Championship. She also won herself the Padma Shri and Arjuna for her exemplary track record world-over.
These sportswomen keep at it braving non-support, lack of acknowledgment, deprivation of infrastructure and exposure, grants and training, not to mention a general denial of appreciation. They do it out of their passion for the sport, and the motherland they owe their existence to. As a population, we may not garland them when they arrive upon airports or railway stations, but the least we can do it applaud their efforts.