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The historic firsts for the Indian female athletes in sporting world

First Olympic participant to first medalist: Here is the list of historic firsts in Indian sports for female athletes.

The historic firsts for the Indian female athletes in sporting world

Women Sports: Anju Bobby George (Top Left), Kallam Malleswari (Top Right), Deepa Malik (Bottom Left), Aparna Ghosh (Bottom Right)


Deepanshu Jain

Published: 8 March 2024 9:36 AM GMT

Indian female athletes have always been an important part of Indian sporting culture despite going through major challenges at the start of their careers being it family support, societal discrimination, or workplace disparity.

Female athletes of India have been succeeding at the top level resulting in proud moments for the fans be it Saina Nehwal - the first-ever Olympic medalist in badminton or Mary Kom, a six-time world champion.

Here, The Bridge celebrates such historic trendsetters or first moments by an Indian female athlete in the sporting world

Nora Polley - First Indian woman at the Olympics

Nora Polley was the first Indian to take part in the Olympic Games, she was the lone Indian female player at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, when she competed in the tennis events.

Polley competed in both the women's singles and mixed doubles tennis events at the event she went for the event by reaching the semi-finals in a tournament in Cannes. At the Olympics, she started with a win in the second round of the Women's singles category.

This makes her also the first woman to register a win at the Olympic Games. Though, she lost in her third-round encounter against Lili Alvarez of Spain her appearance at the event has made a huge impact on Indian sporting culture as more female athletes are encouraged to choose sports as a career.

Karnam Malleswari - First Olympic medal

It took more than 75 years for an Indian female athlete to win a medal at the Olympic Games, she was a 25-year-old girl from a small village in Andhra Pradesh. The athlete we are talking about is weightlifter Kallam Malleswari.

She was a two-time world champion winning two titles in the 54 kg division in 1994 and 1995 before landing on her first podium finish at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, when she clinched the bronze medal in women's 69 KG in a very close final.

Karnam chose weightlifting as a sport when she was just 12 years old under the coaching of Neelam Shetty Appanna. After her huge impact in world sports with her numerous medals, Malleswari was also awarded many national rewards like the Arjuna Award in 1994, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 1999, and Padma Shri in 1999.

Deepa Malik - First Paralympic medal

Deepa Malik is an athlete who surpassed all the challenges in her life to become the first Indian female athlete to win a medal at the Summer Paralympics. She won the silver medal in the shot put in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil.

She started her career at the age of 30, which is already a very tough task for a person, but her determination led her to overcome the age barrier to become a renowned professional athlete.

Deepa, who came out from a diagnosis of a spinal tumor twice in her life and many surgeries throughout, inspired many other women to fight hard with their problems and diseases and choose sports as a remedy for that thing.

Her excellent journey led her to win many more medals in both national and international events. In 2020, she was also elected as the President of the Paralympic Committee of India.

Anju Bobby George - First athlete to medal at World Athletics C'Ship

The national record holder in the long jump, Anju Bobby George, was the first Indian athlete to win a bronze medal at the World Athletics Championships across gender. She won the bronze medal clearing 6.70 m in Long Jump at the 2003 World Championships in Athletics in Paris.

She was a star athlete for India at that time and also did very well at the 2004 Olympic games in Athens achieving her personal best of 6.83 m at the 2004 Olympics which brought her the fifth position. This is still one of the longest-holding national records for India.

Born in Kottayam, Kerala in 1977, Anju Bobby George was introduced to the world of athletics by her father K.T. Markos as a child, and her talent was honed at the CKM Koruthode school.

Her achievements in this sport have had a monumental impact on Indian athletics inspiring the next generation of long jumpers. She is also the current vice-president of the Athletics Federation of India.

Aparna Ghosh - First recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award

The first female recipient of the Dhyan Chand Lifetime Achievement Award was Aparna Ghosh, who was 2002 honored with this in the sport of basketball. This award has been honoured to the athletes for their contributions to sport both during their active sporting career and after retirement.

Aparna Ghosh, coming from Bolpur City in West Bengal, is one of the most accomplished players and coaches in Indian basketball, she played for the Indian national team for almost 16 years and also became a highly successful coach for Indian Railways.

Ghosh has led Indian Railways women to many successes for several years. She has also served as part of India's national coaching system and was the national women's team assistant coach at the 2015 Asia Women's Championship.

She has dedicated her full lifetime to the sport of basketball in India which inspired many more female coaches to come up and take the responsibilities of handling a team or an athlete throughout the journey.

Few more female athletes who have lasting impact on Indian Sports

Kamaljit Sandhu - The first Indian woman to win a gold at the Asian Games

Jyotirmoyee Sikdar - First woman Athlete to be awarded the Khel Ratna Award

Anne Lumsden - First female recipient of the prestigious Arjun Award

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