“Be bold, proclaim it everywhere: They only live who dare.” —Voltaire
Nothing could better attest this French philosopher’s quote than Dipa Karmakar’s feat at the recent Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The 23-year-old Indian gymnast played boldly to perform the deadly vault that scares everyone else — Produnova Vault and created history by becoming the first Indian ever to qualify for the vaults final at the Olympics.
However, this Tripura girl, who is unafraid of consequences and is almost gambling her life to bring home the coveted Olympics medal is not the only one who is striving to make India Proud.
There are several other sportswomen who are sweating it out, despite the many odds like lack of money and facilities, pushing the boundaries, breaking the stereotypes and playing bold to achieve international honors for India.
Here’s a look at some of these passionate gals, who in a cricket-obsessed country have chosen to tread on the road less traveled and made a bold choice to pick up a sport that isn’t cricket, and are even excelling at it.
No surprise that we begin the piece by this young talent who stole our heart with her courage and gutsy attitude.
Her mind-blowing feat is currently breaking the internet. Not only has this young star athlete of India made us proud but has also captured the attention of the world through her incredible gymnastic skills.
Dipa who hails from Agartala is one of the five women that have successfully landed the deadly Produnova Vault in the competition. The Vault is so risky that if not executed perfectly can cost the gymnast his/her life or injuring them permanently.
But like they say, nothing is impossible to a courageous heart. Dipa who has been training since she was 6-year-old overcame several hurdles and challenges, including a postural deformity – flat fleet – which is not good for a gymnast as it affects the spring in the jump. This brave girl never gave up and devoted all her energies to play bold and achieve success.
More power to you girl!
The Phogat sisters revolutionized the way we think of women’s wrestling.
To opt for a sport like wrestling, which for the longest time was considered to be the men’s domain is in itself a bold move and these young girls have shown us that they are no less than any boys that we see in the ring.
Hailing from a conservative state like Haryana that is known to be sexist, Babita and her sisters Geeta and Vinesh have dared to dream and even succeeded in making their dreams come true by playing bold and not giving up despite the many hurdles. Of course, a major chunk of the credit goes to their father Mahavir Singh Phogat, who has trained them.
When they started training, the conservative Bhiwani district in Haryana felt that it was a taboo for girls to wrestle, they were ridiculed and ostracized for their efforts, but the girls soon shut down all their naysayers once they started winning international tournaments. Their life has also inspired the Aamir Khan starrer Dangal.
While the bigger challenge of breaking the stereotype has been accomplished, there are several other roadblocks that the girls are still battling.
Babita who qualified for Rio after striking gold at the Asian Olympic Qualifier event in Astana, Kazakhstan, was threatened by a temporary suspension imposed on her by United World Wrestling (UWW).
Apparently, Babita hadn’t followed proper procedure while officially withdrawing from the 1st World Qualification tournament in Mongolia. However, she was forgiven as she was a first time offender.
Later, Babita again got caught in a web of controversy after Mongolian wrestler Sumiya Erdenechimeg failed a dope test in the Asian qualifiers, where she had beaten Babita in the semi-finals. The drug that lead to Sumiya’s ban, meldonium, was the same drug that Sharapova was suspended for. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) went on to reinstate Sumiya after a rule change, clearing her passage to the Olympics.
This again threatened Babita’s spot at the Olympics, however, the UWW finally confirmed that all countries previously granted Olympic spots will not be impacted by the latest adjustment.
This young 21-year-old wrestler hailing from the celebrated Phogat family has proved that success comes to those who aren’t afraid to play bold. She along with her sisters has also been instrumental in developing women’s wrestling in the north.
Young Vinesh has won medals in six of her seven international tournaments since July 2014, and is one of India’s strongest medal bets this year.
Vinesh, who lost her father when she was 9-year-old was brought up by her uncle the acclaimed - Mahavir Singh Phogat, who is the father of champion wrestlers Geeta and Babita. Vinesh, like her cousins, grew up learning wrestling and her talent was soon recognized.
In 2013, she proved her mettle at the Asian Wrestling Championships and the Commonwealth Wrestling Championships where she won the 51kg bronze and silver medals respectively. At the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Vinesh captured the gold medal in the women’s freestyle 48kg in her very first appearance at this event.
Today, Vinesh is one of the most acclaimed wrestling champions of the world and has defeated the 2014 World Championships silver medalist Iwona Matkowska en route to the gold medal. Vinesh became the first Indian woman wrestler to qualify for the Rio Olympics and was later joined by Sakshi Malik and her cousin Babita Kumari.
The spirited 21-year-old oozes confidence and has promised that she will settle for nothing less than a gold medal in Brazil, “I’m going to Rio thinking of the gold and nothing else.”
That's the spirit!
Dutee’s inspiration to become an athlete came from her elder sister – Saraswati Chand, who was an athlete. But being born in a poor family of weavers her journey from a nobody to a professional Indian sprinter and current national champion in women’s 100 meters’ event wasn’t easy.
Apart from struggling for the basic facilities such as running shoes to bigger challenges like being banned for an indefinite period from competing when she was 18, Dutee indeed had to defy several odds before making a mark for herself.
Dutee was dropped from the common wealth games contingent at the last minute and was banned for an indefinite period under the guidelines of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that debar athletes with hyperandrogenism — excessive but naturally occurring testosterone — in the women's category. However, the young athlete wasn’t going to give up so easily. She won the right to compete again after a long legal battle at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
And today, Dutee is the third Indian women to ever qualify for the Women's 100 metres event at the Summer Olympic Games, with PT Usha having qualified for the event in 1980 Summer Olympics.
Tintu Luka who hails from a small village in Kerala is coached by none other than PT Usha and is India’s best bet to clinch a gold at the Olympics.
Like any other non-cricketing athlete, Tintu too had her shares of ups and downs till the nation took notice of her. Her father is a mason in Saudi Arabia, who has struggled all his life to make ends meet and provide for his wife and three daughters. But despite the limited resources Tintu dared to dream big.
Tintu, who is gifted with speed came across her first big break in life when her uncle read an advertisement in a newspaper about Usha's school of Athletics. Her parents were enthusiastic sportsmen and enrolled her instantly. As a young athlete at Usha's school, Tintu soon outran all other girls and had to race the boys as she trained.
Tintu broke into the international scene when she was 17-year-old and won the gold in the 4x400m relay event at the 15th Doha Asian Games in 2006. She followed it up by winning the silver medal at the Asian Junior Athletic Championships held in Jakarta.
In 2010, Tintu broke the 15 year national 800m record held by Shiney Wilson at the Continental Cup in Croatia and since then she has won five medals in the 800m event at Asian Games and Asian Championships through the course of her career.
However, there have also been failures on her path as she failed to impress at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which was held at Delhi, and the 2012 London Olympics.
But the 27-year-old athlete is not the kinds to let a few failures define her, Tintu is all set to play bold and hit the track with all her might and shine at Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Whether they win or lose, these girls along with their passion and play bold attitude are packing a punch that deserves to be applauded.
A salute to all those athletes who made a bold choice!!!