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Legendary Indian female athletes

India is a land of diverse cultures and traditions, and sports have always been an integral part of the country’s identity. The field of sports has given Indian women and men a chance to uplift their fortunes through sheer hard work and talent.

Regarding the Sustainability Strategy of IOC “fostering gender equality and strengthening women`s empowerment in and through sport is also at the core of the mission of IOC.”

Indian sport has seen a massive rise in the number of it's female athletes shining at the world stage since the turn of the millennium. These women are trailblazers of Indian sport and inspire thousands across the nation.

Here is a look at the legendary Indian female athletes of all time.

Karnam Malleswari

The first moment of glory for Indian sports women came at Sydney 2000 when the legendary Karnam Malleswari won bronze, making her the first Indian weightlifter to win an Olympic medal.More importantly, Karnam Malleswari became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal.

It was an incredible effort - Karnam had overcome a loss of form and dealt with a new weight category like the champion athlete she was - to win the historic bronze.

She may not have stood on the top step of the podium but Karnam Malleswari had given the country something far more important - the self-belief for Indian women athletes to know that they too could bring a lot of pride to the nation.

Saina Nehwal

New records were witnessed thanks to Saina Nehwal’s bronze at London 2012, which was India’s first medal in badminton at the Olympic Games.

When she returned home with the medal, Saina Nehwal became an icon for Indian youth and Olympic dreamers. She has added many more medals, including at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, since then to her tally.

I want to be the best, it's not about the ranking, it's about being consistent over a period of time.

Mary Kom

The first Indian woman boxer to win a medal at the Olympics, MC Mary Kom has been a trailblazer for Indian sports women in many ways.

Be it her six world titles or her return to the ring post-pregnancy, this legend is everything that an aspiring Indian woman athlete looks for in a role model.

People used to say that boxing is for men and not for women and I thought I will show them someday. I promised myself and proved myself.

Her 'Magnificent Mary' moniker is one that befits her huge status in the sport!

PV Sindhu

Few Indians have stood on the Olympic podium with a silver medal around their neck. Only one other Indian, wrestler Sushil Kumar, has ever won two individual Olympic medals.

The first Indian ever woman to do so is PV Sindhu. Her accomplishments at Rio 2016 gave the sport added impetus while her historic win at the BWF World Championships established India as a major challenger at the top.

At Tokyo 2020, PV Sindhu made it two medals in two Olympic appearances with bronze in the women’s singles.

One of the aspects that has driven PV Sindhu over the years is her single-mindedness to achieve greatness.

The greatest asset is a strong mind. If I know someone is training harder than I am, I have no excuses.

Today, badminton is recognised as a sport in which India has a global reputation. And PV Sindhu, along with Saina Nehwal, has helped propel it to unprecedented heights, and especially for Indian women in sports.

Sakshi Malik

Wrestling and India have a glorious history to fall back on at the Olympics. Be it KD Jadhav in 1952 or Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt since the turn of the century, it’s a discipline that has produced medal winners for the country.

But it wasn’t until Rio 2016 that India saw one of their own win a medal in the women’s category as well. The 2016 edition of the Games witnessed Sakshi Malik become the first Indian woman to win an Olympic wrestling medal when she bagged bronze in the 58kg category to create history.

Up against Kyrgyzstan's Aisuluu Tynybekova in her bronze medal bout, Sakshi Malik was in all sorts of trouble with just seconds to go. But it was here that the Indian wrestler pulled off a final move that saw her topple her opponent to clinch the bronze.

I never gave up till the end, I knew I would win if I lasted six minutes. In the final round, I had to give my maximum, I had the self-belief.

Sania Mirza

Inspired by stalwart Serena Williams, who returned to the tennis circuit after having a baby, Sania Mirza has begun to feel her way back into the sport as well.

The Indian tennis ace gave birth to a boy late in 2018 and was on maternal duty ever since. But 2020 saw Sania Mirza return to the court.

While returning to the professional circuit is no mean task, Sania Mirza believes it’s her love for the game that's helped her push herself to be back in the mix.

Having Izhan is the biggest blessing I could have. He's my inspiration to get back to being fit. Making a comeback is not to prove anything. The only reason to come back was that I love playing and competing.

An inspiring title win at her first event on return, the Hobart International was followed by another historic achievement as she led the Indian tennis team to the Fed Cup playoffs for the first time.

Building form with every passing match, Sania Mirza made a fourth Olympic appearance at Tokyo 2020, where she made a first-round exit in the women’s doubles alongside Ankita Raina.

Mirabai Chanu

Mirabai Chanu has perhaps taken Indian weightlifting to the next step. A world champion in 2017, Mirabai won her second world weightlifting championships medal - a silver - at the Bogota 2022 meet. Mirabai Chanu is also a two-time Commonwealth Games champion, her back-to-back golds at Gold Coast 2018 and Birmingham 2022 coming after winning a silver at Glasgow 2014. She is also a bronze medallist from the 2020 Asian championships. Her crowning glory, however, is the silver medal in the 49kg category she won at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, bouncing back in style from a disappointing outing at the preceding Summer Games at Rio 2016.

“Since I won the silver medal in Tokyo, several young athletes, especially girls, have been inspired by me. There are very few female athletes in this sport. I want to be a role model for those aspiring to take up weightlifting.”

Lovlina Borgohain

At Tokyo 2020, boxer Lovlina Borgohain also added to the list of inspiring Indian sportswomen. She won bronze in the women’s 69kg on Olympic debut, beating fourth seed Chen Nien-Chin of Chinese Taipei to confirm her medal. She is one of India’s youngest medallists and has a bright future ahead.

Their stories put the sustainable foundation of the future for Indian women in sports!



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