India has been participating in the Summer Olympics since a long time. Norman Pritchard is considered to be the first Indian to participate in the Olympics when he represented India as the lone athlete in the 1900 Paris Games. There was a halt in India’s participation for three consecutive Games after that.
Thanks to Dorabji Tata’s efforts, India returned to the fold in the 1920 Antwerp Games and has since participated in each and every Olympics. Though India became a regular at the quadrennial event since 1920, it was not until the 1952 Helsinki Games that the country saw its first female representative.
Born on 15th June 1935, Nilima Ghose became the first ever Indian woman at the Olympics when she was just 17 years old. Nilima was track and field athlete and competed in the 100m sprint and the 80m hurdles for India at the 1952 Games.
She spent most of her childhood training to be a seasoned athlete and her dream of representing India came true when she became the first Indian woman at the Olympics. Nilima finished second last in the 100m heats with a timing of 13.8 seconds and completed the 80m hurdles in fifth position – two seconds behind the first placed athlete.
Though her performance was nothing remarkable, the fact that she became the first woman to represent the country shot the young Nilima to fame. The seventeen year old set an example and proved to people that even women of the country can compete with the best in the world and bring laurels to the nation, if given an opportunity.
Nilima wasn’t the only Indian woman at the 1952 games, another sprinter – a 22 year old Mary D’Souza Sequeira was also part of the Indian contingent for 100m and 200m races during the Helsinki Olympics.
While Mary was named in the heat number 9 of 100m women’s sprint, Nilima competed in the first heat which technically made her the first woman to represent India at the Olympics.
And as fate would have it, even Mary’s campaign ended at the heats itself as she failed to qualify for the next round in both the events.