Women power to the fore- Nitu, Tulika, and the hockey girls win the hearts of billions in India with gutsy performances

Indian women shine on the Day 6 of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The rise of women in Indian sport in recent years has been most enchanting. Gone are the days when lady athletes were treated as ‘second class.’ Today when one talks of medal prospects at the multi-discipline events, like the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games and the Olympics, women figure high on priority.

No, not just in terms of getting coached and funded large-heartedly by the Indian government, but also in terms of medal expectations. Watching an array of women athletes compete hard for India in a gamut of arenas at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Wednesday, you could be sure, Nari Shakti is in full force.

The way India has been encouraging women across all walks of life is a very serious attempt to showcase their talent, skill and capability. In sport, in particular, there has been constant encouragement as well.

If 21-year-old Nitu Ghanghas from Haryana was in rip-roaring form against Nicole Clyde in the 47kg category in boxing, it made for great viewing. Nitu looks thin, at first. But then, what you see can be quite misleading. Watching the rustic lass pound her opponent with the ferocity of a tiger was testimony to how women like Nitu are a strong force in Indian sport.

At one stage, when Clyde took the mandatory count with the referee keeping an eye on the clock, you felt sorry for the girl. Oh, heck, this is boxing. A ruthless sport not meant for the faint-hearted. This is all about aggro, punches, hooks, and even spilling blood on the deck.

Women in boxing, too compete with flair and flamboyance. Just that Nitu ensuring a bronze medal brings joy to so many people at home. She comes from a low middle class family. Her father Jai Bhagwan says she is the bread-winner in the family.

What her family does, in return, is eggs on their daughter to scale the peaks. Well, ensuring a bronze has done wonders and the family is already celebrating in a village called Dahana in Haryana. Sweets have been ordered, and the achievements of the “gaooon ki beti” are being recognised.

Perhaps, this is a bit like scenes from the movie Dangal, where Aamir Khan captured the travails of a father in producing kushtee champions so beautifully. The characters in the movie brought out the hardships which girls and women face in chasing their dreams.

Perhaps, we will see more Nitus’ in coming years as Haryana has been a sporting state for sure, despite all the complexities in their caste system. Sport has no caste or creed. Sport is all about performance, winning, and delivering medals!

Also Read: From Lawn Bowls to Table Tennis, India shows golden form at the Commonwealth Games

Tulika Maan wins silver

Tulika
Tulika

If Nitu brought joy, then Tulika Maan also was in her elements, as she entered the judo final by defeating Sydnee Andrew in the 78kg judo bout. Even before the draw was made, it appeared the field in this section would be weak. Yet, for Tulika to showcase her superiority in a highly technical sport was worth lavish praise.

Tulika trains in Bhopal and has been the face of Indian judo for a while, winning national titles galore. She has won medals in the Commonwealth Championships and the South Asian Games. To be sure, her performance in Birmingham on Wednesday is proof of her prowess.

She gets supported by the Sports Authority of India, under the annual ACTC programme. Sport like judo may not be that popular but if India are looking for medals in the international arena, especially women, judo is a good bet.

By the end of Wednesday evening, woman power was exemplified further when the Indian women’s hockey team booked their place in the semi-finals at the Commonwealth Games. Salima Tete, Navneet Kaur and Lalremsiami pumped in goals with felicity as India defeated Canada 3-2 in a crucial league match.

It seems like yesterday the Indian women’s team was shedding tears in Tokyo when they finished fourth in the Olympics. The bronze medal seemed in handshaking distance, but slipped away, courtesy the 3-4 loss to Great Britain.

Tears flowed down the cheeks of the girls. The loss in Tokyo was heartbreak. All of them wept late into night and even on arrival into New Delhi. It was only after they saw the cheer and celebration at a function hosted for them in the Capital did they believe they had left their mark.

Not having done too well in the recent FIH World Cup, for the Indian girls to peak has not been easy. Each of these girls who scored a goal on Wednesday, did it with josh. Hockey is all about high adrenaline flow, pulse racing and running on synthetic turf.

The semi-final against Australia will be tough. However, none of these girls fear tough teams. These girls have confidence and self belief. When there was a change at the helm with coach Sjoerd Marijne not getting an extension, the girls were upset.

However, the transition has been smooth. With Janeke Schopman now in command as coach, the girls are again going through the grind. Each one of them in the camp has to slog it out. Team selection is on merit.

Someone like Rani Rampa, the former India skipper is out as she is not fully fit. Yet, we have hungry senior players like Vanadana Katariya and Savita Punia, spilling their guts on the turf.

Dil Se.

Also Read: “A phenomenal athlete” – Alice Tai wins gold at Commonwealth Games months after getting her leg amputated

Also Read: Indian Men’s hockey team shows old weaknesses, bottle a 4-1 lead to draw the match 4-4 with hosts England at the Commonwealth Games