Indian women athletes continue to break barriers in sports. From making it to the podium at prestigious international competitive events to breaking shackles by openly declaring their sexual orientation despite the social stigma that inevitably would follow to taking up sports professionally and taking charge of their careers, women in Indian sport have consistently made us proud through this year.
Here’s a look then, at the women in Indian sport who dominated our headlines and became role models for young girls across the country in 2019.
PV Sindhu – First Indian to win World Championships
- 2013 – Bronze
- 2014 – Bronze
- 2017 – Silver
- 2018 – Silver
- 2019 – Gold
PV Sindhu is considered the golden girl of Indian badminton, and she proved it yet again, by winning the gold at the World Championships this year. She is now ranked 13th in the world as highest paid woman athletes for the year, according to the Forbes. As a result of her consistent performance, Sindhu regained the spot of being the highest-paid woman athlete in India in September this year.
With many new brand endorsement deals pouring in, Sindhu made a total of 5.5 million dollars in earnings, and was called ‘India’s most marketable female athlete’ by Forbes. Her World Championship gold medal was also a first by any Indian. Now, the Hyderabad-based shuttler is earning over Rs 35 crores a year. The badminton player is among India’s favourites for another Olympic medal in 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Shafali Verma – 15-year-old cricketer surpassed Tendulkar’s record
This 15-year-old cricketer replaced the veteran Mithali Raj after she announced retirement from T20 Internationals and has already proved herself to be a worthy successor, to fill Mithali’s boots. Shafali is one of the best batswomen India has currently. This Rohtak-born teenage cricketer was inspired by Sachin Tendulkar’s final Ranji Trophy game at Lahli ground in Haryana.
She made her decision to have a career in cricket after watching Tendulkar’s brilliant performance and knock out sixes, and recently surpassed his 30-year-old record with a blazing knock. She became the youngest Indian cricketer to score a half-century in international cricket. Chosen for her hard-hitting prowess, Shafali’s rare talent was spotted during the Women’s T20 challenge earlier this year where she played under Mithali for Team Velocity.
Dutee Chand – First Indian to win a 100m gold in a global event
National record holder, the rebellious Dutee Chand became the first Indian woman track and field athlete to clinch a gold medal at the 30th Summer University Games in Napoli, Italy after she won the 100 m dash event in July this year.
Pull me down, I will come back stronger! pic.twitter.com/PHO86ZrExl
— Dutee Chand (@DuteeChand) July 9, 2019
Later, in August, she won another gold medal at the 100 m event of the 5th Indian Grand Prix. Considered India’s fastest woman, Dutee also bettered her own national record in the women’s 100 m heats of the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships in Doha in 2019.
On May 19, this Odisha-born athlete also made headlines as she publicly admitted that she was in a same-sex relationship. “This is my personal matter. I am sure everything will be fine in a month or two. On the international level, there are several athletes (who are in a same-sex relationship). To live, everybody needs a partner who understands your heart. We like each other so we decided to live together. She gives me motivation for my sport. My focus on sports will be intact,” she had said. With this, she also became perhaps the first Indian athlete to come out.
Hima Das – Three weeks. Five successive gold medals
In a span of three weeks, Hima Das won five successive gold medals in different meets across Poland and the Czech Republic in. Four of her victories came in the 200 m sprint while her fifth top-podium finish was in the 400 m event.
Finished 400m today on the top here in Czech Republic today 🏃♀️ pic.twitter.com/1gwnXw5hN4
— Hima (mon jai) (@HimaDas8) July 20, 2019
The star sprinter Hima is the first Indian woman to win a gold at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships, in Tampere. The 18-year-old athlete, who hails from a small village of Dhing in Nagaon of Assam, is the youngest child in the family and her father is a small rice farmer. Nicknamed ‘Dhing Express,’ she spent most of her childhood coping with an overwhelming financial crisis, today she makes about Rs 30-35 lakh a year per brand. This year, she made it to the ‘Forbes India 30 Under 30’ list. She has also been appointed as the country’s first youth ambassador to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) India, recently.
Mary Kom – Record 8th World Championships Medal
MC Mary Kom continues to be an unstoppable force to reckon with in Indian boxing. She won a record 8th World Championship (bronze) medal in the 51 kg category of Women’s Boxing in Ulan Ude. She also became the first boxer in the history of World Championships to win eight world meet medals. She and Cuban men’s legend Felix Savon were tied on seven after winning the gold in the 48 kg category in New Delhi last year. With the win, Kom improved her own record and became the most successful boxer (men and women’s boxing combined) in the history of the tournament.
— Boxing Federation (@BFI_official) October 10, 2019
In her nearly two decade long illustrious career, Mary became the most successful boxer in world championships’ history when she claimed the 48 kg category top honours in November last year in Delhi. The mother of three has won gold at prestigious events —the Commonwealth Games, India Open Boxing Tournament and now the World Championships.
This year alone, she won gold medals at the India Open in Guwahati and President’s Cup in Indonesia.
The 2012 London Olympics bronze-medalist now aims to change the shade of her medal to gold, and has her eye on a Tokyo Olympic Games berth in a new weight category. Mary has six gold medals and silver at the World Championships so far.
Vinesh Phogat – First Indian Wrestler to book a spot for Olympics 2020
Tokyo Olympics 2020 is the target is fixed for Indian grappler Vinesh Phogat who is also steadily climbing up in the rankings.
Vinesh Phogat is going to Tokyo! pic.twitter.com/rOi0ma49El
— Vinay Siwach (@siwachvinay) September 18, 2019
In 2019, the star wrestler from the famous Phogat family, who is one of India’s biggest medal hopefuls at the 2020 Tokyo Games, bagged bronze at the World Wrestling Championships, and assured herself of an Olympic berth. She is now at the number two spot in the world ranking charts in the 53 kg weight category. This was Vinesh’s first world championship medal and this is also the first time she gains the status of world number two.
India’s gold medallist in the Asiad and Commonwealth Games , she has been competing in the 48 kg category since her senior international debut. She recently switched her weight category (from 50kg to 53kg), which was deemed a very risky move but she came out a winner in that too!
Vinesh is the fifth Indian woman wrestler to win a World Championship medal after Alka Tomar (2006), Geeta Phogat (2012), Babita Phogat (2012) and Pooja Dhanda (2018).
More power to you, girls!