There is no better opportunity to honour India’s outstanding performance at the CWG than this month, when the country is commemorating 75 years of independence. For everyone, but especially for women, sport has been a catalyst for growth. It has given them the confidence, courage, and strength they need to overcome the barriers of stigma and patriarchy. Everyone can be united by it.
A loud round of applause erupted as Saikhom Mirabai Chanu successfully lifted 109 kg and dropped the barbell. Chanu simply took a small step back while still smiling and saying the respectful “Namaste.” Everyone was in awe of Chanu’s subsequent accomplishments, which included setting a new record in addition to winning India’s first gold medal at these Commonwealth Games. This came after India’s account was opened by Sanket Sargar’s silver and P Gururaja’s bronze.
The entire country watched this major event with bated breath for 11 days. As the competition came to a close, a victorious Indian contingent left with one of the best performances at the Commonwealth Games, bringing home 61 medals (22 gold, 16 silver, and 23 bronze), and that’s even without counting our specialty, shooting, which we are particularly strong in. There is no time better than this month, when the country is commemorating its 75th Independence Day as part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, to celebrate this achievement.
Each athlete shared their experiences of overcoming adversity and resilience as they stood on the verge of success. Women’s tales may be more difficult to tell because they overcame barriers imposed by society, families, and other external authorities in addition to those established by their direct competition. We’ve witnessed some fantastic performances this year, from Sushila Devi Likmabam and Tulika Maan’s individual silver in Judo to Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat’s individual gold in wrestling; from Nitu Ghangas and Nikhat Zareen’s individual gold to PV Sindhu’s gold in badminton. In a tense game, our women’s hockey team also won bronze.
Rupa, Pinki, Nayanmoni, and Lovely were all previously athletes—Rupa played kabaddi, Lovely ran track. They all chose to go down a less travelled path, and as a result, they have all found success. However, women in athletics do not enjoy exclusive glory. Even if it is still infused with the obstacles from the past, it still gives them a sense of empowerment, which is what modern sports offer. Sport has the ability to bring people together to fulfil the imperative both personally and professionally, regardless of caste, race, or gender. We will, however, also note that women have recently been participating in some sports at some global competitions.
Women’s boxing, where we have champions like Mary Kom, Nikhat Zareen, and others, was only recently introduced in the 2012 London Olympics. Contrarily, women’s cricket didn’t exist until the Commonwealth Games, where our team won a silver medal, making us all very proud.