The idea of women making a career in sports is still not an accepted norm in India. The idea of women being tough, strong and ‘on the field’ seems discomforting to many. Yet, it is no secret that Indian sportswomen have continued to bring glory to the country time and again. Along with perseverance and hard work, these women have been blessed with incredibly supportive fathers who became an important part of their journey. Here is a look at some of the most inspiring fathers who have contributed immensely to their daughter’s sports careers.
1. Mahavir Singh Phogat
Geeta and Babita Phogat are well-known wrestlers from India, having won several accolades. However, standing behind them like a rock is their father, Mahavir Singh Phogat. He was a wrestler himself. Fighting all odds to train his daughters into a sport considered ‘manly’, he broke all stereotypes and produced two wrestlers who went on to play for India at prestigious tournaments. He has supported the two of them, both in the capacity of a father and that of a coach.
Geeta Phogat went on to win India’s first gold medal in women’s wrestling in the 55 kg freestyle category at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. She is also the first Indian woman wrestler to have qualified for the Olympics. Babita Kumari also won the gold medal in 2014 Commonwealth Games. The movie ‘Dangal’ was based on the Phogat sisters’ journey and their father’s role in it.
2. Imran Mirza
Sania’s father, Imran Mirza, is currently a constructor in Lucknow. Sania often credits his father for raising her in an environment where girls were treated as equal to boys. While he worked in the construction department, Sania’s mother took over his printing press and started handling it. Thus, from the beginning, he believed gender was no obstruction to work. In an interview for ScoopWhoop, Sania said that there was no undue pressure at home. Both she and her sister enjoyed the freedom to make their own life decisions. Gender was never the basis on which she could or could not do things.
She also spoke about how at home, she was never told she couldn’t do something just because she was a girl. Her father played a critical role in raising her as strong and independent. With the support she received at home, Sania went on to become one of the best Indian tennis players, receiving international acclaim.
3. Harvir Singh Nehwal
Saina Nehwal is a name that probably every Indian is aware of. An ace badminton player and former number 1, she is an international phenomenon who has won several medals. Her feats include an Olympic bronze, Commonwealth gold, Super Series title and many more. However, her father Harvir Singh played a crucial role in leading his daughter to the career that would shape their lives. There were times when he spent his hard earned money on coaching or buying equipment for Saina despite facing a financial crunch.
He always had faith in his daughter’s abilities and made sure no obstacle stands in her way. When she was eight, he realised her potential and got her enrolled as a trainee at an academy. From there, coupled with Saina’s hard work and her father’s conviction, an Indian badminton star was born. In 2016, Saina Nehwal was awarded the prestigious Padma Bhushan by the Indian government.
4. Dorai Raj
Mithali Raj, who has captained the Indian women’s cricket team, is also the highest run-scorer in women’s international cricket and the only female cricketer to surpass the 6,000 run mark in WODIs. She has created a name for herself in a sport that was previously dominated by men in the country. Additionally, her performance brought the long overdue attention to women’s cricket and its potential in the country. Her father, Dorai Raj, played a crucial role in leading her daughter into an unconventional sport. “I had put my son in cricket camp. Mithali was very lazy, so to wake her up in the morning, I used to take her along. Casually, I used to play with her there. It was my friend Jyoti Prasad who spotted the talent and the potential in her. After that, there was no looking back,” Dorai Raj told India Times.
While many questioned her decision to play cricket, her father believed otherwise. Consequently, Mithali received adequate support at home to continue her passion towards the game. Recalling how determined she has been towards cricket, he said, ” Once Mithali was playing with boys without a helmet. She got injured and got four stitches on the face. Next day she was on the field again for the match. She was even rewarded for this game.”
Kudos to you, dads!
Feature Image Credit: David Clarke-Unsplash
Nimisha Is An Intern With SheThePeople.TV