Feature

She Power: 5 women athletes who made India proud in 2020!

Several Indian women athletes have grabbed the headlines in 2020 - a year of uncertainty 

By Samrat Chakraborty ·

2020 has been a year of uncertainties, with the pandemic bringing sports to a standstill for most of the year.

However, there have been moments and instances that have brought joy to sporting fanatics in whatever little sporting action we managed to witness this year.

From returning to the tennis court after two years to featuring in TIME Magazine as an inspiration and to book a spot for the Tokyo Olympics - several Indian women athletes have grabbed the headlines.

Let us have a look at five such Indian women athletes who have done the country proud amid challenging times.

Sania Mirza 

Sania Mirza in action

Six-time Grand Slam champion in doubles, Sania Mirza, had a dream start to 2020. She had spent some time away from the tennis circuit in 2018 and 2019 due to injury and then pregnancy. But after giving birth to her first child, she made a resounding comeback to the professional circuit after a hiatus of 27 months.

In her very first tournament, she won the doubles title at the WTA Hobart International in January 2020.

Mirza and her partner Nadiia Kichenok lifted the women's doubles title after edging out No.2 seeded Shaui Peng and Shuai Zhang in the summit clash (6-4, 6-4).

She will now be looking to make India proud in 2021 as well at the Tokyo Olympics. Mirza had fallen agonisingly short of the mixed doubles bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics with Rohan Bopanna.

Bala Devi

Bala Devi 

India women's team striker Ngangom Bala Devi, in January 2020, made the country proud as she signed an 18-month deal with Scottish club Rangers Women’s FC. She became the first Indian woman footballer to sign a professional contract with a European outfit and the first Asian international to join Rangers Women.

Bala Devi then went on to make history on December 6, 2020, when she became the first Indian woman to score in a European football league. Her goal came in the 85th minute as she sent a low shot which found the back of the net against Motherwell, a game which the Rangers won 9-0.

That was not her only contribution in the game as she helped win a penalty after being brought down inside the box in the 68th minute.

She is also the current top scorer for the Indian women’s team with 65 goals in 80 matches since 2010.

Vinesh Phogat

Vinesh Phogat

Premier Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat made an inch-perfect start to the Olympic year as she displayed dominance to overpower Ecuador's Luisa Elizabeth Valverde 4-0 to bag the gold medal in the 53kg category at the Rome Ranking Series in January.

Vinesh had a fine run in the build up to her final bout as she beat two Chinese rivals on the way.

Later in September 2020, she became the first Indian wrestler to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, with an 8-2 win over world number one Sarah Ann Hildebrandt in the repechage round of the World Wrestling Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

Manisha Moun

Manisha Moun at the Cologne Boxing World Cup

Upcoming Indian pugilist Manisha Moun continued to rise up the ranks as she became one of the three Indians to bag a gold medal from the recently-concluded Cologne Boxing World Cup.

Moun bagged the top podium spot in the featherweight category (57kg) after trumping two-time AIBA Women’s Youth World Champion and compatriot Sakshi Choudhary, favourite to win the final bout, 3-2 in a closely fought contest.

The Kaithal-born boxer had clinched a silver medal at the 2019 National Championships before bagging a bronze in the bantamweight category (54kg) at the 2019 Asian Amateur Boxing Championships.

Moun had been dubbed a ‘Giant Killer’ for her promise early on but has now clinched her first major medal. She will now look to step up her preparations to land a spot in the Tokyo Olympics.

Manasi Joshi

For Manasi Joshi, the forced break due to COVID-19 pandemic has been a blessing in disguise. Photo: BWF/ Alan Spink

Manasi Joshi’s rise in stature is an inspiring story like none other. Her leg was amputated at the age of 21 after being in an accident and she started playing badminton as part of her rehabilitation.

She was encouraged to take up para-badminton as a sport and enrolled herself under premier coach Pullela Gopichand.

Joshi found success last year when she clinched gold for India in the World Para-Badminton Championships in Basel, Switzerland, beating compatriot Parul Parma in the women's singles SL3 final.

However, she has continued to make India proud in 2020 as well, albeit out of the court. The TIME magazine featured Joshi as a Next Generation Leader in October 2020, a first for a Para athlete.

This was followed by Joshi getting a one-of-a-kind Barbie doll modelled after her, another first for a para athlete.

Joshi is currently training to qualify in the mixed doubles event, with partner Rakesh Pandey, for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.