Started Lawn Bowls because it's a sport without injuries, Nayanmoni Saikia within 1 win of India's first ever medal
Commonwealth Games 2022: The Indian Lawn Bowls women's team will be playing the semifinal on Monday. Can Nayanmoni Saikia and co win India's first ever medal in this sport?
Update: Nayanmoni Saikia was part of the Indian Lawn Bowls team as they won a gold medal in CWG 2022 on Tuesday.
Nayanmoni Saikia had taken up Lawn Bowls as a sport because it is a sport without injuries. The slow pace of the game, best communicated to the Indian TV audience through the sound of birds chirping when it is played at the Commonwealth Games, seemed best suited to her.
On Sunday, things became serious. She came within one win of securing India's first ever medal in this sport in CWG history as part of the women's fours team which qualified for the semifinals by beating Norfolk Islands 17-9. This is the best result in Lawn Bowls for India at the 2022 CWG yet.
Hailing from Tengabari, a remote village in Assam's Sarupathar not very far from Lovlina Borgohain's house, could the 33-year-old Nayanmoni Saikia end up creating history for India? It could be quite poignant, after all Lawn Bowls changed Nayanmoni's life around.
"Nayanmoni was a very dedicated weightlifter earlier, her whole life revolved around sports. But a leg injury meant that her performances kept deteriorating. Till she found Lawn Bowls. That became her passion after that. She has faced many challenges in her life, but she never sacrificed the game" Nayanmoni's husband Bhaskar Jyoti Gohain, a local businessman in Barpathar, told The Bridge.
Selected to be part of the SAI Golaghat centre through a talent hunt back in 2001, Nayanmoni had represented her state many times. But fate had other plans for her.
In 2007, when the National Games were held in Assam, she found a new sport where her injury would not hold her back - Lawn Bowls.
Ajay Chetia, a former sportsperson who later became a weightlifting promoter in Assam, said, "Lawn Bowls was unheard of in this state before 2007. When Nayanmoni saw the sport then, it changed her life. She took up the sport that year itself and since then has represented both Assam and India many times. She got the gold medal in the 2011 and 2015 National Games in individual and team events. In 2012, she won gold at the Asian Lawn Bowls Championship in the girls' under-25 section. She also represented the country in the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games."
Nayanmoni's dedication to the exotic sport of Lawn Bowls, imported from the United Kingdom, can be gleaned from the fact that she made a 2-3 hour journey to Guwahati, where the Sarusajai Sports Complex has the only lawn bowls court in the whole state, to resume her training barely nine months after having a baby.
Her husband said because they are a sporting family, they always tried to support Nayanmoni's dreams.
"My mother is also a sportsperson, she played Athletics but had to give it up. Now Nayanmani is making us proud. We tried to support her every time. There were many times we faced financial difficulties and other problems, but we tried not to stop or look back," he said.
Assam, incidentally, is a very promising state in Lawn Bowls. In the 3rd Khelo India Youth Games this year, Assam won 10 medals, the highest in the country.
The state's best player Nayanmoni will be playing as the 'third' - the player who acts as the second in command of the fours team and helps the 'skip' of the team through his final shots - as India seek to create history on Monday.
The Indian women's fours team of Lovely Choubey, Pinki, Nayanmoni Saikia and Rupa Rani Tirkey will face New Zealand in semifinal. A gold medal match or a bronze medal match after that beckons.