12 Indian Sportswomen Who Broke Records And Changed The Gender Game In 2018 | Verve Magazine
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September 12, 2018

12 Indian Sportswomen Who Broke Records And Changed The Gender Game In 2018

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

In addition to giving its best-ever performance at the Asian Games this year, the Indian contingent also finished third in the medals tally at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. We take this opportunity to highlight the performances of the women at the forefront

If you have scrolled through Instagram in the past couple of months and wondered why your news feed is filled with Indian athletes holding medals in one hand along with stuffed animals in the other, we’ve solved the mystery. It’s the new alternative for the unsustainable practice of presenting flowers. But what really left us wide-eyed was the tally of medals won by Indian athletes at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games this year; a total of 69 medals — 15 gold, 24 silver and 30 bronze medals in the former event and 66 medals — 26 Gold, 20 Silver and 20 Bronze in the latter. Calculations prove that this is India’s best-ever performance at the Asian Games in addition to finishing third in the medals tally at the Commonwealth Games.

The rise of a slew of star female players in the last few years has been the harbinger of a major shift in this male-dominated sphere, illustrated by this one single statistic — 50 per cent of all golds won by India at the Commonwealth Games were brought in by women players.

We highlight the achievements of some of these sportswomen who’ve broken records in their field.


Vinesh Phogat

Her cousins Geeta and Babita Phogat may have made records of their own and also have a movie inspired by them to boast of, but this year belonged to Vinesh Phogat who created history by becoming the first Indian woman wrestler to win an Asian Games gold. She clinched the second gold medal for India at the Asian Games, defeating Japan’s Yuki Irie by an impressive margin of 6-2 in the 50-kilogram freestyle.

Ankita Raina

India’s first medal in tennis at the Asian Games was won by Ankita Raina who won a bronze medal after a gruelling face-off against China’s Zhang Shuai in the women’s singles semi-final. She is now one of the two Indians to win a medal at the Asian Games in the women’s singles event, right on the heels of Sania Mirza, who won a silver in the 2006 edition in Doha, followed by a bronze in 2010 in Guangzhou.

Hima Das

She’s not called the Dhing Express for nothing. Setting a new national record in the 400-metre race, the sprinter first broke the 14-year record by clocking 51.00 seconds to qualify for the final and then topped it by clinching silver with a record of 50.59. seconds A mere 0.50 seconds behind Bahrain’s Salwa Naser — who won the gold at a record time of 50.09 seconds — we’re only expecting Das aim higher from here on out.

Dutee Chand

Dutee Chand’s story has always been an inspiring one considering how she fought back relentlessly against the Athletic Federation of India who claimed that she had an undue advantage over other female athletes because of her hyperandrogenism.  Using that as fuel to feed her fire, the sprinter clinched a silver in the 100-metre dash to win India’s first medal in this event in 20 years, clocking 11.32 seconds — a tad below her national record of 11.29 seconds. As if that wasn’t enough, she won a silver in the 200-metre event as well, joining the likes of PT Usha in the list of athletes who have won more than one medal at the Asian Games.

Saina Nehwal

The shuttler bagged a bronze in the women’s singles event — her first medal in the quadrennial event — along with winning one of the two historic medals awarded to Indians in the badminton tournament at the Asian Games. The only other time India won a badminton medal at the Asian Games was in 1982, when Syed Modi bagged a bronze in the men’s singles event.

PV Sindhu

For the Indian shuttler, winning the semi-final at the 2018 Asian Games was a record-breaking feat in itself considering that it made her the first-ever Indian to enter the finals of a badminton event at the Asian Games. Earlier, Saina Nehwal became the first Indian woman shuttler to claim a singles medal at the Asian Games when she went down fighting against World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying 17-21, 14-21 in the semi-final.

Malaprabha Jadhav

Making its debut at the Asian Games this year, Kurash is one of the Turkic terms for wrestling and specifically refers to a style of the sport practiced in Central Asia where wrestlers use towels to hold their opponents, with the set ending when one of the players is thrown off their feet. Yallappa won India’s first-ever medal in Kurash at the Asian Games, clinching a bronze in addition to Pincky Balhara‘s silver in the 52-kilogram category. It was a proud moment for India’s Kurash contingent, which did not have the funds to even pay for its own kits, and a snub to the Indian sports federations who have failed to provide enough financial aid to women athletes time and again.

Swapna Barman

Swapna Barman became the first Indian heptathlete to win an Asian Games gold in Jakarta.  For the uninitiated, a heptathlon is a women’s-only athletic event in which each competitor takes part in the same prescribed seven events — 100-metre hurdles, high jump, shot-put, 200 metres, long jump, javelin, and 800 metres. Barman, who has six toes in both her feet, gave the performance of a lifetime by scoring 6,026 points overall. Before her, only Bengal’s Soma Biswas and Karnataka’s JJ Shobha and Pramila Aiyappa had returned with medals from the Asian Games.


Saikhom Mirabai Chanu

The weightlifter’s incredible performance in the women’s 48-kilogram category saw her break records in the snatch as well as the clean-and-jerk events. She pulled off clean lifts in all three snatch attempts lifting 80 kilograms, 84 kilograms and 86 kilograms, which led to her breaking the snatch record. In the clean and jerk, she lifted 103 kilograms, 107 kilograms and 110 kilograms that won her the gold medal. Her combined lifted weight 196kg (86kg + 110kg) was also a record in itself adding up to her breaking six previous Commonwealth Games records.

Khumukcham Sanjita Chanu

The Manipuri weightlifter  won the second gold medal for India at the Commonwealth Games in the women’s 53-kilogram weightlifting category in a sweeping performance that saw her win by a margin of 10 kilograms over the silver medalist. Chanu broke the existing Commonwealth Games snatch record during her lifts when she lifted 84 kilograms along with lifting 108 kilograms in her clean-and-jerk attempts to win the gold medal with a total of 192 kilograms.

Manika Batra

Ranked 58th on the world table tennis charts, Batra proved that her victory wasn’t the result of a stray stroke of luck when she trounced opponents who were placed much higher on the world rankings. She became the first and only Indian female table tennis player to ever secure a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games opening the floodgates for other women with similar aspirations. Batra clinched gold medals in the women’s doubles and singles event, a silver in the women’s doubles event and a bronze in the mixed doubles event — making it a successful outing for her at this edition of the Commonwealth Games.

Heena Sidhu

Shooter Heena Sidhu added a gold medal to her growing list of achievements after winning a silver in the 10-metre air pistol event. Sidhu won her first individual gold medal with a determined performance in the finals after qualifying in the third position. The 28-year-old from Mumbai shot a Commonwealth Games record score of 38 (out of 50) in the finals as she out-performed Australia’s Elena Galiabovitch and Malaysia’s Alia Azahari to secure her second medal at the games.

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