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10 Powerful Sportswomen Who Made India Proud in 2018

West Indies v India - ICC Women's World Cup 2017
West Indies v India - ICC Women's World Cup 2017
Pawan Verma

We live in a society where women live by innumerable social taboos, stay deprived of their rights, freedom is yet to become their best friend, and age-old biases are still scratching parents' memory. The story is the same for every household in India except a few.

Before living their dreams, first, they wrestle with their parents' thinking, then society's myths, and if they are lucky enough to cross these barriers, then self-doubts. Like, whether they would be able to live up to their dreams or not, if not, then how severe will be the consequences? Will she be able to get her respect back, or else, she has to deal it all alone?

"You have to be fearless to have success" - Serena Williams, Tennis Star

On the flip side, if she does well and becomes successful, everyone would turn up to share the joy, and if not, all will back out, leaving her in the middle of nowhere. Such is the environment they are growing in.

Living by so many insecurities, sports find its place at the bottom of the pipeline. Most of the parents are yet to believe in the power of sports. They usually find no degree of correlation between girls and sports. Somehow, If the girl gathers some courage and wants to pursue sports, she is advised to drop the plan at first. Or if she insists more, she is threatened to take some other route.

"Having a girl is a plus, not a minus" - Sania Mirza, Tennis Player

But despite facing such challenges in their early lives, going beyond the conventional, breaking all social boundaries, and chiselling out their own path, some of India's finest sportswomen have encountered them all en route to the top.

We are talking about India's top 10 women athletes who made us all proud of their achievements in 2018. Let's have a look at their journey so far.

Mirabai Chanu bagged the first gold medal for India in CWG'18
Mirabai Chanu bagged the first gold medal for India in CWG'18

#10 Saikhom Mirabai Chanu (Weightlifting,48Kg)

Mirabai Chanu, the Indian weightlifter, is one of India's brightest medal prospects at 2020 Olympics. And there is an interesting story behind it.

Mirabai Chanu came into limelight when she won a silver medal in 48Kg at the Glasgow edition of the Commonwealth Games 2014. It was her first major breakthrough at the International stage. She was just 20-years-old then.

Chanu couldn't carry on her fine form into 2016 Rio Olympics, as she failed to lift the weight. In 2017, she came back strong and proved herself at the World Championships. She equalled the championship record, i.e.194 Kg, in total and secured gold medal.

2018, the year when Mirabai Chanu made the world believe in her sheer lifting power. She broke the games record in her weight category; 48Kg and went on to win the first gold medal for India in CWG 2018. Mirabai lifted 196 Kg in total.

For her fantastic performance at CWG'18, she was honoured with Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna as well as with Padma Shri by thIndian Government.

She couldn't represent India at the Asian Games due to a career-threatening injury. But as of now, she is recovered and gunning for gold at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

Table Tennis - Commonwealth Games Day 11
Manika Batra servicing in a game at CWG'18

#9 Manika Batra (Table Tennis)

The ace Indian peddler, Manika Batra, is India's highest ranked female player and in the latest released rankings, she stands at 52.

Although she has a lot of achievements to talk about nothing comes close to the year like 2018. Where she not only won medals after medals but also swept a lot of accolades across the globe for her performances.

Batra's success in Commonwealth Games 2018 put her on the screen of every TV channel in the country. She wasn't baffled with her victories as she had earned them with her sheer courage. Winning four medals at CWG'18 was the biggest turnaround of her life.

There were a couple of records she broke during CWG campaign. Like, she became the first Indian woman ever to win a gold medal in CWG. Moreover, in Women's team, they defeated the Singapore team which had never lost a final in CWG. These game were like a dream run for Manika Batra.

Later in the year, Batra clinched a bronze medal in the mixed doubles event at Asian Games 2018. And for her consistency in the game, Arjun Awardee, Manika Batra was bestowed with the 'Breakthrough Table Tennis Star' award at the prestigious ITTF Star Awards in South Korea.

Swapna Barman bagged the gold medal at Asian Games 2018
Swapna Barman bagged the gold medal at Asian Games 2018

#8 Swapna Barman (Heptathlon)

Indian sports is replete with the stories of sacrifice, courage, sweat and blood and Swapna Barman's journey to the top is unique in its own way. Her struggle from facing the extreme poverty to making the country proud, Swapna is already an inspiration to many.

Jalpaiguri-born, Swapna Barman had never been as privileged as other athletes to feed herself well and look after her own expenses. Her father is a rickshaw driver who is now bed-ridden after having suffered a stroke and mother works in a tea estate.

Marching along the unbelievable adversities throughout her life, the journey to first Indian woman Heptathlete to win a gold medal at the Asian Games 2018 was not less than a dream come true to the Swapna. Despite a broken jaw, she never let herself down for a moment. She kept on fighting for that golden moment and stopped only when she achieved it.

Now, the things are a little bit better for the Swapna and her family, as the Bengal Government has turned up in support, GoSports is providing scholarship and ADIDAS manufacturing customised shoes for her.

Saina Nehwal is yet to win a gold medal at the World Championships
Saina Nehwal is yet to win a gold medal at the World Championships

#7 Saina Nehwal (Badminton)

The London Olympic Games’ bronze medallist, Saina Nehwal is a name that is common to every household in India. She is a synonym to badminton and also the prime reason behind the popularity of the game across the far corners of the nation.

Taking field after a long injury lay-off and claiming a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games 2018 by defeating PV Sindhu, will probably her best memory of the year.

With the support of coach Pullela Gopichand, Nehwal won 6 medals this year. She failed in the finals of the Indonesia Masters, Denmark Open and Syed Modi International, whereas won bronze at the Asian Championships and Asian Games 2018. So, all in all, it was a sensational season for the Olympic bronze medallist.

Saina Nehwal recently married her friend Parupalli Kashyap who is also a Badminton player. Moreover, she is ranked at no.10 in the highest earning sports personalities of the year 2018.

PV Sindhu cap off the season with a gold in the world tour finals
PV Sindhu cap off the season with a gold in the world tour finals

#6 PV Sindhu (Badminton)

PV Sindhu, the ace Indian shuttler had a mixed kind of year as far her on ground performance is concerned. She had been battling with herself throughout the year. No athlete in the world likes losing the finals. Sindhu has lost 7 in the last 15 months.

But all's well that ends well, and she capped off the season on high with clinching the gold medal at the BWF World Tour Finals. Fortunately, she ended the drought of finishing second in the finals.

Despite her finals' vowes, neglecting her contribution to the Indian Badminton wouldn't go down well with her admirers. Counting on her best performances of the season the World Tour Finals gold medal will be placed at the top of it, then silver at CWG'18 and one more silver medal at the Asian Games 2018. Her list of achievements doesn't end here, but she would less likely to forget these major events.

Off the field, Olympic silver medalist Sindhu is a 7th highest paid female athlete in the world. Her earnings are round about Rs. 60 crores a year.

Smriti Mandhana smashing the ball towards off side and watching it going all the way to the boundary
Smriti Mandhana smashing the ball towards off side and watching it going all the way to the boundary

#5 Smriti Mandhana (Cricket)

Women's Cricket World Cup 2017 worked as a catalyst for the rise of women's cricket in India. And the reason behind that was the 'Indian women's cricket team' who without much media hype or administration support stormed into the finals of the event.

Eventually, India lost in the final, but that put forth some interesting names to the cricket fanatics. Smriti Mandhana was the youngest of them all. One year has gone by, but the only thing that didn't change, 'Smriti Mandhana scoring run'.

She is the highest run-getter in the women's one-day and third highest in the women's twenty20 internationals played this year. Mandhana is not only plundering runs in international games but also in the domestic leagues played in England and Australia.

Earlier this year, she became the first woman player from India to bag a contract from Kia Super League. And she went on to score the most runs by a player in a women's T20 league anywhere in the world. She has the record of fastest half-century scored for India in WT20I and joint-fastest in women's T20 to her name.

She is currently out in Australia representing Hobart Hurricanes in Women's Big Bash League. For her outstanding achievements this year, the Indian government awarded her the prestigious award in sports - Arjun Award.

Vinesh Phogat holding tricolour after winning gold in Commonwealth Games
Vinesh Phogat holding tricolour after winning gold in Commonwealth Games

#4 Vinesh Phogat (Wrestling, 50Kg)

Wrestling was not unknown to Vinesh Phogat when she was born as she comes from a very successful background of wrestling. Her cousins Geeta and Babita Phogat are well-recognised athletes across the nation.

She has been a consistent performer for India at the international stage, winning two back to back gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and a bettered performance than 2014 in Asian Games 2018 where she became the first Indian woman to win a gold medal, would be among her happiest memories.

Unfortunately, due to her elbow ligament tear, Vinesh couldn't participate in the World Wrestling Championships held at Budapest this year. But soon after recovery, she grabbed the gold medal in the 57kg category at Tata Motors Senior Women's National Championship.

Vinesh is among the definite medal prospects at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Moreover, she was recently featured on the cover page of famous Femina India magazine. Vogue India went a step further and honoured Vinesh Phogat as, "Sportswoman of the Year 2018".

India has a huge hope from Hima Das in the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympics.
India has a huge hope from Hima Das in the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympics.

#3 Hima Das (Athletics)

Running those last 100 meters of the 400 meters finals at the IAAF World U20 Championships like her life depended on it. Hima Das has been overcoming the adversities in her life in the same manner.

Running her whole life in the paddy fields to making her country proud far in Finland, the 18-year-old became the first Indian athlete in track event to win a gold medal. No Indian had ever come close to that.

IAAF World U20 Championships was just the beginning of a new era in Indian Athletics. And Hima Das, its one of ambassadors. The competitiveness of Hima Das makes her an outstanding athlete. She is young and raring to go.

She unleashed her talent at Asian Games and clinched three important medals for India. Unfortunately, due to her false start in semis, she couldn't qualify for 200 meters final. Still, it was a heartwarming performance from an 18-year-old.

Off the field, Hima Das was honoured with the Vogue India's 'Sportswoman of the Year' award and also featured on their magazine's cover page.

Manu Bhakersporting a smile with the medal around her neck.
Manu Bhakersporting a smile with the medal around her neck.

#2 Manu Baker (Shooting)

Manu Bhaker is not less than a shooting prodigy, whatever she touches, it turns into gold. At the age of 16, she has achieved, what a shooter dream throughout his/her life. She is just an unbelievable talent.

Manu represented India in 4 major events this year, ISSF World Cup, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Youth Olympic Games. Manu Bhaker and records go parallel. She loves setting new and breaking old records.

At Commonwealth Games, she secured the gold medal in 10 m air pistol with setting a new record. Whereas in the Asian Games, she scored game's record score in qualification round but unfortunately couldn't win a medal. Furthermore, at the ISSF world cup, by winning a gold medal in 10 m air pistol, she became the youngest Indian to win a gold medal.

Asian Games' setback didn't deter her confidence much rather made her stronger. She is like a river which never stops before reaching its destination. Youth Olympics 2018 were the testimony to her success. Manu Bhaker became the first Indian, male or female, to win a gold medal at the Youth Olympics.

Mary Kom is happily holding tricolour after winning a gold medal at Asian Games
Mary Kom is happily holding tricolour after winning a gold medal at Asian Games

#1 Mary Kom (Boxing, Light-flyweight)

At the age of 35, mother of 3 children and winnings world titles at will, the magnificent Mary is the most formidable athlete India has ever produced.

In her latest achievements, gold in the World Championships held at Delhi comes at the top where she defeated Ukrainian Hanna Okhota in the final and equalled the world record of Cuban legend Felix Savon, who won all his six gold medals in the heavyweight division. Irish Boxer, Katie Taylor is the only threat to the Mary Kom's record with five titles in hand.

It was a special moment for Olympic medalist as the last time she picked up gold in world championships, was back in 2010.

Except for Commonwealth Games, Mary Kom had won the medal in all the possible events organised at the international level. Reason being, the weight category she fights in, was not included in CWG until 2018. As soon as the CWG Committee introduced it, Mary Kom didn't waste her time and gracefully filled the void she was feeling for so long. She bagged a gold medal and made her country proud once again.

At the age of saying goodbye to the game, she is gunning for gold at the Tokyo Summer Olympics 2020. She is a legend by all means.

Edited by Kingshuk Kusari

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