Inspirational Stories

Our road to Rio

“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.”
– Muhammad Ali
This powerful quote reminds us about the joys, teamwork and victory that great sports and sports people inspire in us. Four years have passed since the Olympics were held in London in 2012 and it’s time for the great games again. This time, the world will unite in a spirit of sport and celebration from August 5-21, 2016 in beautiful Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The London Olympics were very special for India. Our athletes won six medals – two silver and four bronze – making it India’s best performance at an Olympic event. Now it’s time to aim highter and perform better, especially since this August, India’s sending its largest-ever contingent of sportspersons to the Olympics. Athletes representing sports as varied as 20-km walking to wrestling will be a part of a historic group that has several reasons to celebrate already. One of those reasons is that nearly half of the people in that group are women.
Our blogs this month will introduce you to our Olympic contestants, their stories and the sport they play. To start with, let’s meet the the female sportspersons representing us in Rio this year.
18-year old golfer Aditi Ashok, who only turned pro in January 2016 is one of the youngest members of our contingent. Hailing from Bengaluru, she is the only Indian to win the Ladies British Amateur stroke play championship in England.
Aditi Ashok - An Indian Professional Golfer
Aditi Ashok. Image source – cnmsports.com
32-year-old table tennis singles player Mouma Das, who played in the 2004 Olympics, is also a part of our team. The only other female table tennis player to qualify this year, 20-year-old Manika Batra — who won three golds and a silver at the recent 12th South Asian Games and who recently said in an interview, “I don’t want to go to Rio and return without a medal” — started playing the game when she was only 5 years old.
Even more inspiring is 22-year-old Renuka Yadav’s story. The daughter of a domestic help from Bihar, she is now a part of the Indian women’s Hockey team. She is also the first Olympian from Chattisgarh.
Renuka Yadav - An Indian Field Hockey Player
Renuka Yadav. Image source – patrika.com
OP Jaisha, our top marathoner from Kerala, is also on the contingent. She credits her sport from saving her and her family from acute poverty. Entering the track for sprint races is 22-year-old Dutee Chand, who is only the second Indian woman to qualify for the 100m after PT Usha did in 1980. She beat her own national record of 11.33 seconds in April this year to qualify for Rio with a timing of 11.30 seconds.
Dutee Chand - An Indian Professional Sprinter
Dutee Chand. Image source – nytimes.com
Other performances to look out for this year are archers Deepika Kumari, Bombayla Devi and Laxmirani Majhi, who are participating in women’s individual as well as team events. Apurvi Chandela and Ayonika Paul are strong contenders in the 10m air rifle shooting event where as former world no. 1 Heena Sidhu will shoot in the 10m and 20m pistol events.
Then is 21-year-old weight Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, the Manipuri weightlifter who will celebrate her birthday while in Rio. In June 2016, she broke a record that remained undefeated for over a decade, set by fellow Manipuri and weightlifting legend Nameirakpam Kunjarani Devi. Devi, who is now her mentor, calls her the kind of lifter that comes around “once in a generation”.
Saikhom Mirabai Chanu - An Indian Weightlifter
Saikhom Mirabai Chanu. Image source eprahaar.in
Among the famous names headed to Rio this time are Sania Mirza, who will play mixed and women’s tennis doubles; Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu, who will play badminton singles and Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta who will play badminton doubles. Deepa Karmakar, who we spoke of in our last newsletter (which can be accessed from here) is our gymnastics specialist.
Citizenship and sports have much in common. At heart, they are both about working together, striving and reaching a goal larger than ourselves. We can’t help but feel proud and patriotic when we see the hardwork and determination of these incredible atheletes. Let’s Desh Apnayen by supporting them, cheering them on and giving them the respect and love they deserve.
Rio, we are coming!!
Text adapted from – http://theladiesfinger.com/indian-women-olympics/

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