Women's Day: Top 10 women athletes of 2019 in Indian sports
The Bridge takes a look at the top ten women who have relentlessly knocked on the door of glory and never settled before clinching it.
The aspect of sidelining women in most fields has taken a most definite backseat in the world of sports as the Indian women continue to smash records and create history. The year of 2019 has seen some spectacular performances from the women as they went out of their way to script a narrative of success for themselves in a country still dictated by patriarchal trends. The Bridge takes a look at the top ten women who have made the year a memorable one in the arena of sports as they relentlessly knocked on the door of glory and never settled before clinching it.
Disclaimer: Not based on rankings. The numbers are in no particular order.
#10 P V Sindhu
For Hyderabadi ace shuttler P V Sindhu it has been a marvelous first half of 2019 as she etched a new record for herself and the country when she laid her hands on the elusive gold medal at the BWF World Championships. Having eyed the crown of becoming the World Champion, Sindhu exhibited a powerful form and looked formidable against old foe Nozomi Okuhara of Japan to claim the title for herself. Sindhu put up an impressive performance that had Okuhara grappling for points in vain.
Bagging the World Championship crown, Sindhu's form had dipped with early-exits in the next six tournaments. Save for a quarter-final finish at the Fuzhou French Open 2019, Sindhu's pinnacle moment of the year came on August 25 in Basel. Sindhu has laid down a record of winning medals at every World Championships, the exception being of 2015. A recipient of both Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Padma Shri, Sindhu became the second woman in the world to win five or more medals at the World Championships.
#9 Vinesh Phogat
One of India’s top wrestlers, Vinesh Phogat has brought laurels for the country from international competitions in and around the world. She bagged a maiden World Championship medal in 2019 in the women’s 53kg category after pinning Maria Prevolaraki in the bronze medal match. She became the first Indian wrestler to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 by virtue of her top-six finish. The first Indian woman wrestler to win gold in both Commonwealth and Asian Games, Vinesh next aims to gun for a greater glory at the Tokyo Olympics next year.
#8 Bhavani Devi
The star fencer of India, Bhavani Devi was born into a middle-class family in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Her father was a priest and her mother a homemaker. Beginning her fencing career in 2003, Devi has achieved the heights in her career when she won a silver medal in Ghent (Belgium) in October 2019. She is hopeful for qualifying for the Olympics although she has a lot of tournaments lined up till end-March 2020 to guarantee her entry. Earlier in the year, Devi bagged the bronze medal in the women’s Sabre category of the Tournoi Satellite fencing tournament Reykjavik, Iceland. The 26-year-old Indian finished joint third alongside Hong Kong’s Au Sin Ying, with two points.
Starting from the Bronze medal at the 2009 CommonWealth Championship held in Malaysia, Bhavani Devi has won Bronze medals in 2010 International Open, Thailand, the 2010 Cadet Asian Championship, Philippines, the 2012 Commonwealth Championship, Jersey and 2015 Under-23 Asian Championship, Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar and, 2015 Flemish Open. In the 2014 Asian Championship under-23 category in the Philippines, she bagged the Silver medal becoming the first Indian to achieve that feat.
#7 Dutee Chand
From belonging to a poverty-stricken background to aiming for something big in life — star Indian sprinter Dutee Chand’s road to glory had many pit stops. She overcame a series of scandals but stayed strong to script her own narrative. Dutee also won gold in the 100m race at the 2019 Summer Universiade in Napoli this year, becoming the first Indian woman sprinter to win gold at the Universiade. Her breakthrough achievement came in the year 2012 when she timed 11.8 seconds in the 100 metres category to set a national record. Dutee accomplished this feat at the National Youth U-18 Junior Athletics Championships in Bengaluru.
The 23-year-old, however, fought a long battle for her right to race after undergoing the pain of humiliating gender tests. The career of the double silver medallist at the Jakarta Asian Games 2018 took a major blow in 2014, when she was dropped from the Commonwealth Games for high levels of testosterone in her body that exceeded the guidelines laid down for female athletes. While she was one step away from bidding goodbye to her athletics career, a determined Dutee decided to take on the IAAF’s hyperandrogenism clause in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
#6 Gurjit Kaur
The designated drag-flicker of the Indian hockey team, Gurjit has represented India internationally. She was the most successful goal-scorer of the Indian team during the 2018 Hockey World Cup netting 8 goals, in which the Indian team emerged victorious as the continental champions. She has played 53 international matches, as of July 2018. Gurjit's time in the spotlight came in the 2017 Asia Cup, in which the Indian team emerged as continental champions and consequently qualified for a spot at the Hockey World Cup in London in 2018. Her brace helped India beat USA 5-1 to put one foot in Olympics in the qualifier first leg clash just previous month.
#5 Jamuna Boro
The 22-year-old Jamuna started her career as a Wushu player, coached by John Smith Narzary. Later she started boxing and was selected for the SAI Regional sub-center, based in Guwahati. She won a silver medal in the 56th Belgrade Women's Boxing Tournament. She won a gold medal at the 2nd India Open International Boxing Tournament held in Guwahati in May 2019 where she defeated her rivals Meena Kumari Maisnam in semi-finals and Y Sandhyarani Devi in the finals. She also won a gold medal at the 23rd President's Cup 2019 Boxing International Open Tournament. Boro, in 54kg category, was among ten boxers to have represented India in the 2019 AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships in October 2019. She lost to Chinese Taipei's Huang Hsiao-Wen in the semifinal and had to settle with a bronze medal.
#4 Elavenil Valarivan
Rising Indian shooter Elavenil Valarivan became the third shooter after Apurvi Chandela and Anjali Bhagwat to win a senior ISSF World Cup gold in the 10m Air Rifle in August this year. The 20-year-old shot gold with 251.7 points while Seonaid Mcintosh from Great Britain took the silver with 250.6 points. This is Elavenil's maiden medal at the senior World Cup. The 20-year-old from Tamil Nadu had earlier won gold medals at ISSF Junior World Cup in Sydney and Suhl in 2018. Elavenil shot down a gold medal in the ISSF World Cup Finals in the women's 10m air rifle competition only three weeks back.
#3 Jemimah Rodrigues
The young all-round sensation from Mumbai, Jemimah Rodrigues has been earning a name since the day of her debut last year. Jemimah was selected for Maharashtra Under-17 and Under-19 hockey teams. She marked her Under-19 debut during the 2012-13 cricket season. Jemimah is the second woman after Smriti Mandhana to have scored a double century in a 50-over match. She was called on to represent India for a three-match ODI series against South Africa last year.
In 2019, Jemimah was picked for her maiden Kia Super League and was all set to don the jersey for Yorkshire Diamonds. On 25th August, 2019 she scored her maiden century and the only century scored for the Yorkshire Diamonds this year.
#2 Komalika Bari
All of 17, Komalika Bari became India’s third woman world champion in World Youth Archery and Cadet Championship in Spain this year. Jharkhand’s Paltan Hansda was the first to achieve this feat in 2006. Komalika became India’s third woman archer world champion in the Under-18 recurve women’s category after Deepika Kumari, who had won the title in 2009. Earlier this year, she made her international debut at the South Asian Championship and ensured herself spots on the Indian side for elite events including World Cups in Turkey and Germany, the World Championships in the Netherlands and the Olympic test event in Tokyo.
#1 Mirabai Chanu
The star weightlifter from North-East, Mirabai Chanu did the country immensely proud yet again in 2019. The Padma Shri and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award recipient outdid herself at the 2019 World Weightlifting Championships. Mirabai lifted a total of 201 kg (87 kg Snatch and 114 kg Clean & Jerk) to finish 4th in the rankings table. This personal best total also created a new national record in the 49kg category. Chanu is a weightlifter of exceptional caliber and she has won the World Championships several times and bagged medals for the country at the Commonwealth Games.