They are the epitome of grit and grace, and have brought the country much pride and joy. Meet the superwomen who made India’s golden dreams come true at the Commonwealth Games this year.
MARY KOM, 35,
IS THE FIRST INDIAN WOMAN BOXER TO WIN GOLD AT THE 2018 COMMONWEALTH GAMES. SHE IS ALSO THE FIRST WOMAN BOXER TO BRING HOME A GOLD MEDAL FROM THE 2014 ASIAN GAMES, AND THE ONLY INDIAN WOMAN BOXER TO QUALIFY FOR THE 2012 SUMMER OLYMPICS, WHERE SHE WON A BRONZE MEDAL. WITH SO MANY FIRSTS TO HER NAME, WE FIND OUT HOW SHE EXCELS AT HER SPORT.
Chungneijang Mary Kom Hmangte, popularly known as Mary Kom, tells us where she draws her strength from, every time she enters the boxing ring
What does winning gold at CWG mean to you at this juncture of your career? The CWG gold is significant to me because while I have won medals at the Asian Games, the Olympics and the World Championships, I had not won a CWG medal. It was important for me to make history, for my nation and myself.
You have had to deal with a lot of negative comments from people who had doubts about your ability. How do you remain positive? I have had to face many challenges in my career, like being taunted for taking up a ‘manly’ sport such as boxing. However, I have never let it affect me. In fact, I have worked doubly hard and even if some people don’t like me, when I am in the ring, no one can touch me. I truly believe that there is nothing that a woman can’t do and I am always thinking positive.
You have said it before that what sets you apart from other boxers is your mental strength. What does strength mean to you? Strength is everything to me; not just in my career, but also at home. If I am not mentally strong, I can’t do anything. I think women have to be stronger because they have so many responsibilities and play so many roles.
Would you say it is all of this that makes a woman beautiful? Beauty is being a woman and a mother. I want to look pretty even while I am inside the ring. It means a lot to me, because every woman wants to feel beautiful.
How important is self-confidence and self-belief in achieving success? Self-confidence and self-belief are very important when it comes to beating strong opponents who are fast on their feet and land heavy punches. I can analyse my opponent’s game in just 10 to 30 seconds. If I know the boxer’s style and how she is playing, I can beat her easily, regardless of whether she is an easy boxer or a strong one.
FAST AND FURIOUS
It’s not for nothing that shuttler Saina Nehwal has become a household name in the country. Here’s what has made her so popular among the masses
SAINA NEHWAL, 28,
PROVED HER METTLE WHEN SHE BECAME THE FIRST INDIAN WOMAN TO WIN THE PRESTIGIOUS PHILIPPINES OPEN TOURNAMENT— AT 16. AT THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES THIS YEAR, NEHWAL MADE HISTORY AGAIN WHEN SHE CLAIMED HER SECOND INDIVIDUAL GOLD MEDAL AFTER THE 2010 GAMES IN DELHI. THE SHUTTLER SPEAKS TO US ON ACING HER GAME AND NOT LETTING THE LOWS GET TO HER.
How does it feel to win gold twice at the Commonwealth Games? I am blessed to have won it twice—once in 2010 and now in 2018. Tournaments like the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games come only once every four years—we play with extra pressure, and it is definitely more difficult.
You played against PV Sindhu in the finals. What is your equation with her like? Badminton is an individual sport. Our discussions, of course, are cordial, but there is no equation as such. When you’re on the court, you just want to win the match.
You received a lot of flak for participating in the 2016 Olympics despite a serious injury. I was heartbroken when I found out that my knee bone had broken. It was my first experience with an injury; I didn’t know how bad it was. We had already reached Rio, and after I started playing, it felt like someone was hitting me from the inside. I couldn’t believe it would happen to me, especially during that crucial time.
What does strength mean to you? Strength is everything. You need to be strong and everything else comes afterwards. You need to push yourself more than you can think, and I think strength is important to every sportsperson.
What is your perception of beauty? Initially, it was all about focusing on my game and winning medals for my country. People who shoot with me make me look beautiful, but ultimately, the one thing that really counts for any sportsperson is their performance. But being perceived as beautiful is also a part of life, and I’m enjoying it for now.
Manika Batra’s tricolour nails at the CWG made her tremendously popular with the younger generation. Here’s what makes the table tennis player click with the masses
MANIKA BATRA, 22,
LED THE INDIAN WOMEN’S TABLE TENNIS TEAM TO A GOLD MEDAL WIN AGAINST DEFENDING CHAMPIONS FROM SINGAPORE AT THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES THIS YEAR. AT THE TOURNAMENT, BATRA, RANKED 58TH IN THE WORLD, DEFEATED WORLD NUMBER FOUR FENG TIANWEI AS WELL AS ZHOU YIHAN IN THE FINALS. OVER TO THE YOUNG STAR.
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