-Dev Ankur Wadhawan
India’s dismal showing at the Rio Olympics does have a silver lining to it. Its top performers in the Rio Olympics have been girls. Rio Olympics, for India, undoubtedly will be remembered for oodles of girl power and chutzpah that was on display. From Lalita Babar in Steeplechase, Aditi Ashok in Golf, PV Sindhu in Badminton, Sakshi Malik in Wrestling to Dipa Karmakar in Gymnastics. The female power on display has made a resounding and unmissable statement.
Several of the female sportspersons have had to contend with precious little in terms of support, deal with social biases and bear extraneous circumstances that had no direct correlation with their on – field performances. Many of them were unsung heroes before the OIympics began, but took it upon themselves to make do with whatever they had and prove their mettle.
Each of these girls have been responsible for breaking innumerable invisible glass ceilings not only for themselves, but for millions of other girls, waiting in the wings, to give fruition to their dreams to fly higher and higher.
Sindhu, with her indomitable spirit, never – say – die attitude and perseverance reached the finals in Women badminton, an achievement no other Indian, whether in men or women category has ever attained. She has shown that Indian women are capable of competing on the world stage and can prove their mettle, if they get a fair opportunity. Her performance all through the tournament, successively beating higher ranked players and giving an extremely stiff fight in the finals to her Spanish opponent, made for scintillating stuff.
Lalita Babar managed to reach the finals of Steeplechase event in her first OIympics. Although she ended with the tenth rank, she has shown promise.
The image of a beaming Sakshi Malik, with the Indian tricolor draped around her, made for a poignant image. Sakshi Malik hails from Rohtak district in Haryana, a state known for its abysmal sex ratio and deeply entrenched social biases against female child. Her father is a bus conductor with the Delhi Transport Corporation. But, despite the hardships, Sakshi managed to achieve that no other Indian female had done before her. She has become the first Indian female wrestler to win a medal in the Olympics.
Dipa Karmakar, despite her humble background, managed to achieve what no other Indian Gymnast ever did before her. She missed a medal and being on the podium at the OIympics by a whisker. This, despite the grave lack of facilities and a gross mismatch in terms of the resources at the disposal of, lets say, American gymnast, Simon Biles, and her. In her hometown, the place where she was supposed to practice, is often flooded with water and there little help that used to be forthcoming. Infact, despite requesting for one, she was not permitted to take a physio alongwith her to Brazil and one was rushed to Rio only after she entered the finals. That, when the entourage carried several officials and several ministers and their coteries also, who made a beeline for the Rio, but proved little more than excess baggage. Also, the girl practices and executes the Produnava vault, also known as the ‘Death Vault’, putting her life on the line each time she attempts one.
The results go on to show that if, the opportunity presents itself, Indian female sportspersons have it in them to give a good fight to the best in the field. And, this may prove to be yet another body blow to the various biases that have been held against them over decades and centuries.