The Road to Rio that began from Rohtak, a wrestling haven situated in the state of Haryana saw Sakshi Malik, bag India’s first medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
A bronze, resembling the colour of the very mud Malik grew up training in, became the talking point of a nation of 1.2 billion people. After the brilliant exploits of Dipa Karmakar and Aditi Ashok, in gymnastics and golf, Malik’s bronze was clearly an indication of an upsurge towards women in sports. Especially, in a country like that of India.
With maximum cases of female foeticide being reported in Haryana, it is even more important to draw inspiration from Malik and her parents, for having supported her dream in a sport considered to be the domain of men.
And talking about fierce, rebellious parents, PV Sindhu’s parents are not far behind. Having not only encouraged their daughter to play, but also go on an eight-month break to help her train for Rio, is no mean feat.
Amongst those who brought medals, were also athletes who displayed courage beyond expectations, but missed out on medals for various reasons. Dutee Chand, Lalita Babbar, and Vinesh Phogat; all of them trailblazers and women.
Chand became the first woman in almost 30 years to reach what is arguably the most glamourous event on the Olympic calendar- the 100m sprint. Babbar became the first woman, after PT Usha to qualify for an Olympic final in the 3000m steeplechase event and eventually finished at a satisfying 10th place.
The same fate did not belong to Phogat, having forfeited in her semifinal bout with a painful ligament tear in the right knee. If it wasn’t for this unfortunate turn of events, Phogat was well on her way to another wrestling medal for India.
With the crime rate against women refusing to drop, and increasing cases of violence faced by women in India, it is essential that we view these victories in an even more conscious light.
The most number of fourth place-finishes were achieved by women. The two medals that put India on the medals tally also belonged to women. More than seven national records and spells were broken by women.
However, it is not something that we should pride ourselves upon. Non-residential facilities, lack of proper infrastructure, shortage of funds and the absence of a systematic governance combined with social disorder might have pushed the many Sindhus and Maliks away from their sporting dreams.
The question therefore, that it poses in front of us now, is to not let that happen and maintain upon this momentum until 2020 Tokyo Olympics.