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Women’s sport in India today is no longer seen as an unwanted stepchild. With both Sania Mirza and Saina Nehwal reaching the top in tennis and badminton respectively, female athletes in India have received a huge fillip. Their many glorious achievements are merely an indication of the immense potential that women athletes in India have at the moment. Heena Sidhu, Mary Kom and P V Sindhu are but three other athletes who are ensuring that the Indian flag flies high in the world of sport.
However, women’s sport in India doesn’t begin and end with Sania and Saina. There are many other Indian female athletes who are stamping their presence on the global sporting landscape.
While the athletes mentioned above are India’s greatest hopes at the present, the future of women’s sport in India is full of promise.
Bearing that in mind, let us take a look at five upcoming women athletes who are destined to etch their names in the annals of history.
#1 Apurvi Chandela
Apurvi Chandela has already secured a place in the Rio Olympics next year, ahead of veterans like Bindra
Even as established Indian shooters continue to struggle in their respective bids to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics, an unassuming 22-year-old from Jaipur, has already managed to book her ticket to Rio next year.
Apurvi Chandela, who came into the attention of the Indian sporting fraternity after she clinched the Gold medal at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games last year, is the Indian shooting’s new found star.
She announced her arrival on the national stage as a 19-year-old in 2012, when she won the Gold Medal in the 10m Air Rifle event at the senior National Championships held in New Delhi, finishing ahead of Pooja Ghatkar and Pournima Chinmoy Zanane.
However, it wasn’t until her splendid show at the Intershoot Championships conducted at The Hague in 2014 that she came into the limelight. Chandela won four medals, two in the team events and two in the individual category to stamp her presence in the international circuit. This was soon followed by her most remarkable accomplishment till date: The Gold at Glasgow.
On April 11, 2015, she became the second Indian shooter to qualify for the Rio Olympics after Jitu Rai. At the ISSF Rifle/ Pistol World Cup held at Beijing, Chandela won the bronze after shooting a total of 185.6 points, consequently confirming her participation in the quadrennial extravaganza next year.
In the wake of her recent successes, the country will hope Chandela brings back a medal from Rio next year.
#2 Vinesh Phogat
Vinesh Phogat comes from a family that has become synonymous with wrestling.
To say that wrestling is an intrinsic part of Vinesh Phogat’s DNA would be superfluous. Born into a family which boasts a rich pedigree in the sport, Phogat’s success, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say, was preordained. With Geeta, Babita, Priyanka and Ritu for cousins, it would have been a surprise had Vinesh refrained from entering the ‘ring’.
A cousin to Commonwealth Games’ Gold medallist Geeta Phogat, Vinesh was a mere 19 years old when she clinched the Gold herself at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games last year.
While Geeta competes in the 55kg category, Vinesh is a freestyle wrestler in the 48kg category. Following her feat in the Glasgow games, Vinesh added yet another feather to her cap, winning the bronze at the Incheon Asian Games.
At 20, Vinesh has already established her reputation in Indian sport and will hope to add more laurels to her trophy cabinet.
#3 Aakanksha Vora
17-year-old Aakanksha Vora set the national record in the
1500m freestyle event at the 2015 National Games.
17-year-old Aakanksha Vora is a precious young talent that India needs to truly proud of. At an age when her peers’ biggest troubles may include cracking competitive exams or making schemes to get their hands on the latest mobile phone, Vora is busy rewriting the record books.
At the 2015 National Games, Vora won a whopping six medals, of which five were Gold. Having shown immense promise in the junior circuit, Vora’s transition to the senior level was near seamless.
“You will be surprised to see the amount of competition, not just at the senior level, but also the junior level. Half the line-up at the National Games was from the junior level i.e, my age”, said Vora, in an interview to infotroops.
Not only did Vora relegate Mishra to a second position, she also set a new national record, clocking 17 minutes and 42.44 seconds to win the Gold. Incidentally, it was the sole national record in swimming at the 2015 National Games.
Vora’s sterling accomplishments at such a tender age seem to point towards a glorious international career. At 17, she is already earmarked for greater glory and India will hope to see her perform well in international events as well.
#4 Khushbir Kaur
INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA – SEPTEMBER 28: Silver medalist Kaur Khushbir of India celebrate on the podium during the victory ceremony for the Women’s 20km Race Walk during day nine of the 2014 Asian Games at Incheon Asiad Main Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Incheon, South Korea. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Coming from humble origins, 21-year-old Khushbir Kaur’s success story is nothing, if not inspirational. However, in a country that is infamous for the manner in which it has embraced apathy, Kaur has been more in the news for the way her achievements have been ignored in her home state of Punjab.
After she won the silver medal in the 20Km event at the Incheon Asian Games last year, Amritsar’s Khalsa College for women promised her Rs. 5 lakh to renovate her house. In anticipation of these funds, Kaur’s family destroyed their home, but the funds never came and they were reduced to living in a shed.
Although this ‘mistake’ was later rectified by the aforementioned college which released the promised funds, such slights continue to rankle with Kaur.
Khushbir Kaur first burst upon the international scene as a junior walker in the 10Km category at the Asian Junior Athletics Championships, where she finished second. At the 2013 World Championships held in Moscow, she finished 39th in the 20Km walk category, in the course of which she also set a national record, clocking 1 hour, 34 minutes and 28 seconds.
However, at the Asian Walking Championships in Japan later in 2014, she surpassed her own record, as she finished third with a speed of 1 hour, 33 minutes and 37 seconds. Along with fellow race-walking compatriots, Manish Rawat and Sandeep Kumar, Kaur has already qualified for the Rio Olympics and has diverted all her energies to training as rigorously as possible in Portugal, in order to help India win an Olympic medal next year.
#5 Khumukcham Sanjita Chanu
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – JULY 24: Sanjita Chanu Khumukcham of India competes in the Snatch on her way to winning the Gold Medal in the Women’s 48kg Weightlifting at the Scottish Exhibition And Conference Centre during day one of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games on July 24, 2014 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Khumukcham Sanjita Chanu hails from the state of Manipur and is India’s most promising weightlifter.
The 21-year-old scripted history at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games last year when she equalled Nwakolo’s record in the 77Kg effort in snatch. However, she failed in her bid to break Nwakolo’s (77+96)Kg effort , missing the mark by an agonising 2Kg margin.
However, her efforts gave India its first medal at the Commonwealth Games last year in the 48Kg category last year. Her statemate, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu won the silver, presaging what was to be a highly successful event for India.
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