Four women in India’s lawn bowls team created history with their first-ever medal win at the Commonwealth Games 2022 on August 2. The victory of the team members Lovely Choubey, Pinki, Nayanmoni Saikia, and Rupa Rani against South Africa made Indians search for what the game is all about, probably for the first time.
As we celebrate the gold medallists, it is worth noting that the youngest player in the team, Nayanmoni Saikia is 34 years old. These world champions have emerged as the heroes of today and have proved that age and gender have little significance when talent and skill wins medals.
India Lawn Bowls Team
Saikia is the only player of the team who belongs to Assam. She works in the state’s forest department. Saikia also has a daughter. The Commonwealth Games 2022 was her third one so far. While speaking to Olympic.com in 2020, the player had said that she travels a lot and does not get to see her daughter “and all this because I want to perform well.”
Lovely Choubey, 42, the senior most member of the team comes from a middle class family in Jharkhand. As per reports, she works as a constable with the Jharkhand police. Choubey has been an athlete all her life but reportedly she faced obstacles in her career because of injuries. Choubey has represented India at many international platforms before the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. She has won the mixed pair gold for India at the Asia Pacific Merdeka Cup in 2014 and a silver medal at Asian Lawn Bowls Championship in China.
Team member Rupa Rani Tirkey, 35, recently shared her story in an interview with Dainik Bhaskar and revealed that she works as the sports officer in Ramgarh district of Jharkhand state.
Before playing lawn bowls, Rupa Rani Tirkey was a kabaddi and basketball player. Like many of us, the medal winner herself was unaware of lawn bowls earlier. It was only after she played it for the first time that she liked it. She also found out the the stipend for lawn bowls players was higher than what the state government paid to kabaddi players. Even her family members told her to go for another sport as lawn bowls was not popular and they saw no future in it. But Tirkey stood her ground and decided to play it anyway.
In 2009, Tirkey won her first gold medal with her team in Australia at the junior World Cup event. When Tirkey had to leave for the national camp in 2020, she was reluctant as she was newly married and had started sharing a new life with her husband Amrit Minj. It was her husband who motivated her by reminding her of the years she has given to the sports. This is yet another proof of how supporting partners can help women fight obstacles and achieve great things in life.
Pinki, 35, on the other was cricket player before she got into lawn bowls. As per reports, she even played for the Rani Jhansi Trophy in the late nineties. When she was working as a physical education teacher at the Delhi Public School, RK Puram in Delhi in 2007, the national lawn bowls team had a practice session at the school ground. That is when Pinki got introduced to the sport. The national team needed another player to make up for the quota of number of players and without having even played the game before, Pinki became part of the team and even won a silver medal. She went on the represent India at several international tournaments including the Commonwealth Games at Glasgow and Goal Coast in 2014 and 2018 respectively.
India’s lawn bowls gold medal win at the Commonwealth Games 2022 is a teaching moment for the country for several reasons. It is another reminder that better representation of women in sports is of utmost importance. It not only strengthens the country’s position in the field of international sports but it also normalises the notion that women are not just meant to toil and moil at home, they can also be winning battles at the world stage and winning medals. Rupa Rani Tirkey, Lovely Choubey, Pinki and Nayanmoni Saikia’s historic win has given little girls so much to aim for.