Commonwealth Games 2022: The meteoric rise of India's women sportspersons
One great aspect of India's great showing at CWG 2022 is the incredible performance by their women athletes. Of the total 22 gold medals won by India, eight were won exclusively by women, including a historic win at Lawn Bowls.
India's sportspersons showcased a terrific performance at the recently concluded Birmingham Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2022, winning a total of 61 medals that included 22 gold, 16 silver and 23 bronze. India got the fourth position in the medals tally, despite shooting, India's most successful sport at the CWG, not being a part this time.
However, one great aspect of India's great showing at the CWG 2022 was the incredible performance by the female athletes. They performed shoulder-to-shoulder with their male counterparts. While India's male athletes won a total of 35 medals for India, the women didn't fall much behind and clinched a total of 23 medals for their nation. Also, the men and women athletes came together in mixed events to get India three medals, including one gold. Of the total 22 gold medals won by India, eight were won exclusively by women.
India's women sportspersons shone bright in several different events ranging from Athletics to Lawn Bowls. The women got India medals in Wrestling (6 medals), Weightlifting (3 medals), Athletics (2 medals), Badminton (2 medals, one in mixed team), Boxing (3 medals), Cricket (1 medal), Hockey (1 medal), Judo (2 medals), Lawn Bowls (1 medal), Squash (in mixed team), Table Tennis (in mixed team) and Para Table Tennis (2 medals).
During their campaign at the CWG, India women achieved many firsts and shattered several records. The gold medal finish by Women's Fours in Lawn Bowls was India's first ever medal in the event. The bronze by Indian women hockey team was the first in last 16 years since 2006 at CWG. Annu Rani's bronze in women's javelin throw was the first ever medal by an Indian woman in the event. Besides, Priyanka Goswami, who won silver in Women's 10km Race Walk, shattered the national record in the process. Mirabai Chanu set a Commonwealth Games record while winning the gold in Women's 49kg weightlifting.
Among India's women sportspersons, PV Sindhu won her maiden CWG gold and further cemented her status as an all time great, winning her third Games medal after a bronze and silver from the two previous editions. Nikhat Zareen followed up triumph at the Women's World Championships with a gold medal finish in the CWG as well and reassured her status as the rising star in Indian boxing. Another highlight of CWG 2022, was 14-year-old female squash player Anahat Singh who was the youngest member of the Indian contingent.
Some of these women medallists from CWG 2022, might deliver for India at the biggest sporting event- the Olympics too. In Olympics, Karnam Malleswari had broken the glass ceiling, by winning bronze in weightlifting at Sydney in 2000. It was the first ever medal by an Indian woman in the Olympics. Since then, Indian women sportspersons have come a long way with the likes of Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal, Sindhu, Sakshi Malik, Chanu and Lovlina Borgohain rising to the occasion and winning Olympic medals.
Badminton superstar Sindhu, in fact, has won the Olympic medal twice, silver in Rio 2016 and bronze in Tokyo 2020. Years ago, it was Saina who had started the medal haul in Badminton, winning the bronze in London 2012, after which Mary Kom brought bronze in London 2012, while Lovlina clinched a medal of the same colour at Tokyo 2020. Sakshi created a legacy with a bronze medal finish in wrestling at the Rio Olympics, whereas Mirabai raised the bar in weightlifting by winning silver at Tokyo.
All of India's Olympic medals won by women sportspersons, have come in the 21st century. Although PT Usha came very close to a bronze medal finish at the Los Angeles Games in 1984, she missed it by just 0.01 seconds and finished fourth. Similarly, in Rio 2016, gymnast Dipa Karmakar came strikingly close to ending up on the podium only to miss it by a whisker.
This might be a late blooming of women sportspersons in world sporting events, but their show at the Olympics and CWG definitely marks their rise in the Indian 21st century and the hunger for such great performances is only expected to grow.