India has returned from Jakarta Asian Games. Yes, India has won a lot of medals this time. Government sources say this is the largest medal haul of all times by Indian athletes with 15 gold, 24 silver and 30 bronze medals. As usual there will be others who will argue there is nothing to be proud of this achievement and cite a variety of reasons why there is nothing to be happy about.
There is no denying that traditionally India has not done very well in sports. Even now with our best medal tally, we are at number seven position in Asia after China with 132, Japan 75, South Korea 49, Indonesia 31, Uzbekistan 21, Iran 20, Chinese Taipei 17. Given our size and population, we should compare ourselves with China in terms of our medal haul.
Whatever be the reason for our medal tally, this post is not about what India won. Infact, I bow down and salute all medal winners for what they have achieved despite difficult situations. All medal winners have done India proud. Irrespective of the colour of your medals, you have given more than a billion Indians to feel proud for some time in their difficult lives.
This post is about three lady athletes. I think they are our modern day tigresses. They fought against poverty, they fought against illness, they fought against physical abnormality, they fought against discrimination, and yet they delivered. These young ladies two of them in their early twenties and one a teenager still, never asked for reservation, they simply asked for opportunities so that they can deliver for their country, for their state and for their families. These three modern day Indian heroines include
- Swapna Barman gold medallisth in heptathalon,
- Dutee Chand silver medallist in 100 metere and 200 meter dash, and
- Hima Das gold medallist in 4×400 m womens relay, silver medalist in 400 meter dash, and silver medallist in mixed relay.
The following is their story.
Swapna Barman was born in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal in 1996. All of twenty two years, Swapna is the first Indian woman to have won a heptathlon event. Swapna won her gold medal in heptathlon fighting severe toothache. She completed all seven of her events, amassed more than 6000 points, despite her pain. Based on her feat, Swapna is the best athlete in Asia.
Swapna has three other younger brothers and sisters. Her mother worked on a tea estate and her father, was a rickshaw driver. Since 2013, Swapna’s father is bed-ridden after having suffered a stroke. Father cannot earn a living anymore. Swapna uses her prize money to look after her family who live in a house without a concrete wall.
Swapna is unusual in having six toes on each foot. She found it difficult to find the right food and her unusual feet caused her pain because she could not afford extra wide running shoes.
In 2016 Swapna won a scholarship of 150,000 rupees in recognition of the success she had at athletics. She currently trains at the Sports Authority of India campus at Kolkata.She is supported by the GoSports Foundation through the Rahul Dravid Athlete Mentorship Programme.
West Bengal government has promised 10 lac rupee cash reward and a job for Swapna Barman.
Dutee Chand : Twenty two year old, Dutee Chand was born on in the Jaipur district of Odisha. She is the third Indian woman to ever qualify for the Women’s 100 metres event at the Summer Olympic Games. Dutee has won a silver in women’s 100 meter event and 200 meter event in Asian Games, 2018.
Dutee Chand is from a below poverty line (BPL) family of weavers. In 2013, she enrolled in the KIIT University to study law.
Dutee was not allowed to participate in 2014 Common Wealth Games and Asian Games because she suffered from hypergonadism. This decision was to comply with directive of International Olympic Committee, that believed hypergonadism gave athletes like Dutee Chand unfair advantage over other athletes. Dutee Chand’s case was fought pro bone by Canadian law fir Davies Ward, Philips and Vineberg PLC. In 2015, Court of Arbitration of Sports had ruled that there was lack of evidence to suggest hypergonadism increased female athlete performance. International Amateur Athletic Federation was given two years to provide evidence.
Dutee Chand has been training at Pullela Gopichand academy, Hyderabad with young athletes, most notable among them Indian Badminton Star P. V. Sindhu.
Odisha government has announced a cash prize of 3 crore for Dutee Chand. She is presently employed as an executive officer in the prestigious state PSU The Odisha Mining Corporation Ltd
Hima Das : Born at Kandhulimari village, near Dhing of Nagaon district in the state of Assam to a rice farmer family , Hima is the youngest of five children of her parents. She attended the Dhing Public high School and initially was interested in playing football during her childhood. Later, a teacher of her school told her to try out athletics and she decided to switch over to athletics and began participating in short and middle distance races. The coach asked her to shift to Guahati for better training. Hima Das’s parents reluctantly agreed to the shifting proposal . She then moved near to Saarusajai Sports Complex in Guahati and got enrolled to the state academy.
Hima got a gold medal in 4 x 400 meter women relay, a silver medal in 4 x 400 meter mixed relay and a silver in 400 meter dash. Hima was disqualified due to a false start in 200 meter dash. Who knows what would have happened if she could compete.
In this day and age, when we are constantly debating reservation vs. excellence, these ladies are our role models. They could have given up and called it quits. They did not. They persisted and delivered. This is young India.
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