Women of Steel: Players Who Broke Barriers

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Women and Sports

Women today, are shedding all stereotypical tags, breaking away from the “recessive gender” label, challenging themselves and emerging victorious in every field. Despite all this, women playing sports is still considered unbecoming by many.

Some people are of the opinion that the attitude, will, strength and vigour required to play any sport are ingredients possessed by men alone. Indian women, however, have shattered these myths and have proved their mettle. Here are a few of the many determinedly talented women in the Indian sports arena.

  1. Saina Nehwal

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Saina Nehwal is the first woman in the history of Indian sports to reach the World No 1 rank in Badminton. Prakash Padukone was the last Indian player to have reached the numero uno status, almost 35 years ago.

“It’s difficult to play any other sport in a cricket-mad country, especially if you are a woman,” said Nehwal after having clinched the prestige for herself and India, by beating Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon in Indian Open Super Series final in New Delhi.

2. Mary Kom

Mary Kom

She has been the poster child for Indian sports enthusiasts for a long time now. The five-time world champion has proved that a sportswoman’s career need not be bogged down by pressures of family commitments. She is a mother and with rigid support from her family has attained milestones in the field of boxing.

3. Sania Mirza

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Her maiden women’s doubles Grand Slam title at Wimbledon earlier in 2015, and two other doubles titles prior to her win with Martina Hingis, has established Sania Mirza as the most dominant female athlete in the country. She is currently at a career-best at No 1 WTA rank in doubles, the first Indian female to achieve the feat. Mirza, who is a Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award recipient for her exploits in women’s tennis, is the second Indian tennis player, after Leander Paes, to be named for country’s top sporting honour.

4. Mithali Raj

India ICC Womens World Cup

She is the captain of the less-known women cricket team of India. Despite being the most popular sport in the country, there is hardly anyone who is aware about female cricket players, with cricket having always been inclined towards men. She is the first woman from India and Asia to score a double hundred in Tests. She held the record for the highest score in Women’s Tests – 214 against England, 2002 – that stood for 19 months.

5. Heena Sidhu

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“In India, you can’t make a profession out of sport unless you are a cricketer,” Sidhu had said. She is an ace Indian shooter, the first Indian Pistol Shooter to be ranked World No.1 (as on April 7, 2014) by ISSF, the first Indian Pistol shooter to have won a Gold medal in the 2013 ISSF World Cup Finals – in 10-metre Air Pistol event. She went on to become the third Indian shooter after Anjali Bhagwat (2003) and Gagan Narang (2008) to win a Gold medal in a Rifle/Pistol World Cup Finals.

6. Geeta Phogat

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“People said I would bring shame to my family, no one would want to marry me,” Phogat said.

She was country’s first woman wrestler to qualify for the Olympics in 2012. She had to overcome hurdles that men don’t usually face. Geeta Phogat is a wrestler from India who won country’s first ever gold medal in women’s wrestling in the 55 kg freestyle category at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

These women have proved that the word “woman” is not associated with cooking, mopping and other household chores only, and that there is a lot more to it. Though these women had to struggle and persevere, they propelled forward with the never-back-down attitude and made it to the highest of altitudes.

We still have a long way to go when it comes to empowering the women of our country, but these sports personalities are inspiring others to chase their dreams, and not give up on progress.

Akanksha Sharma

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