India’s Women Sports Stars Are The Big ‘Winners’ Of 2018

From MC Mary Kom to a teenage Manu Bhaker – 2018 has been the year of the Indian sportswoman.

4 min read

Manu Bhaker, a 16-year-old shooter from Haryana announced her arrival on the world stage by winning two gold medals at the World Cup in March. 18-year-old Hima Das from a small village named Dhing in Assam broke down all barriers by becoming the first Indian track & field athlete, senior or junior, male or female, to win a gold medal at a World Championship. 35-year-old MC Mary Kom continued the trend of proving that ‘age is just a number’ by winning a record sixth World Championship title.

2018 has been the year of the Indian sportswoman.

From the many woman who created records, broke barriers and conquered new frontiers, here’s a list of 10 big achievements in the last 12 months.

10. Dipa Karmakar

Indian gymnastics’ poster-girl, Dipa Karmakar was out of action for a large part of the last two years but made her comeback in 2018 with a gold medal in the vault event of FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Challenge Cup at Mersin, Turkey.

The 24-year-old who had shot into the limelight after finishing fourth in the vault event at the 2016 Olympics, scored 14.150 points to become the first Indian gymnast to clinch a gold at a world event.

9. Mithali Raj

A turbulent year for the Indian one-day skipper, 2018 also saw Mithali Raj become India’s highest run-scorer in T20 cricket.

During a very controversial Women’s World T20, Mithali scored two back-to-back half centuries to take her career total in the shortest format to 2,283 runs in 85 matches and create the new record.

8. Smriti Mandhana

Indian vice-captain Smriti Mandhana finished a great year for India by being named the 'Women's Cricketer of the Year' as well as the 'Women's ODI Player of the Year' by the ICC.

The left-handed opener won the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Award for the 'Women's Cricketer of the Year' for scoring 669 runs in 12 ODIs along with 622 runs in 25 T20 Internationals in 2018.

Her ODI runs were scored at an average of 66.90 while strike-rate for T20I was an impressive 130.67.

7. Manu Bhaker

16-year-old shooter Manu Bhaker announced her arrival on the world stage by winning almost everything she competed in, in her debut season.

2018 started with the shy Haryana girl winning two gold medals at the World Cup in the 10m air pistol women’s and the mixed team events. At 16, she also became the youngest Indian to finish on top of the podium at a World Cup.

She then followed it up with golds in the Commonwealth Games and the Youth Olympics, the first by an Indian shooter.

“We saw the youth power this year, it feels really good that teenagers are doing so well and achieving their goals. We have set our goals and are working on that only. It is very surprising that suddenly all of us are doing so well.”
Manu Bhaker

6. Saina Nehwal

Saina Nehwal started 2018 with renewed vigour, having rejoined the Pullela Gopichand academy in Hyderabad and training under her former coach.

Her knee injury behind, Saina finished on the podium at both the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games as well.

The CWG gold came after an epic clash with Sindhu in the finals and she followed it up with a bronze at the Asiad.

Saina also reached the finals at the Indonesia Masters, Denmark Open and Syed Modi International, besides winning bronze medals at the Asia championship.

5. Manika Batra

Manika Batra was another revelation of 2018, sweeping the competition in every event she entered at the Commonwealth Games.

The table-tennis star from Delhi beat the then world number four and Olympic medallist, Feng Tianwei, twice to win four medals including two golds.

Batra ended the year by becoming the first Indian to be awarded the Breakthrough Star award at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) awards.

4. Vinesh Phogat

She missed the 2016 Rio Olympics medal due to an injury but the next shot Vinesh Phogat got at representing India at big multidisciplinary events, she did not let herself or the nation down.

3. PV Sindhu

On top of her game and the field, Phogat won gold medals at both the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.

Her season ended when she missed the World Championship due to an injury. It was a success nonetheless.

That PV Sindhu is one of Indian sport’s biggest success stories can be explained in the disappointment expressed by her fans when she failed to bag the gold all season long, despite reaching five finals.

That she had qualified for five gold-medal matches did not count for much, apparently. However, the shuttler managed to silence all her critics when she closed out the season by becoming the first Indian to win the season-ending World Tour Finals.

2. Hima Das

‘Like a flash,’ would be as apt a description of Hima on the tracks as it would be her arrival on the world stage.

With almost no one watching, the teenager from Dhing in Assam raced her way into the history books this summer by becoming the first Indian track-and-field athlete to win a gold at a World Championships.

She clinched the top spot in the women's 400m final at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships in Finland.

Her next appearance was at the Asian Games where the 18-year-old broke the national record in the 400m event twice in two days to bag the silver with a time of 50.79 seconds.

1. MC Mary Kom

16 years after winning her first World Championship gold, MC Mary Kom, aged 35, won a record-breaking sixth gold medal at the World Championships this December.

She started the year with a gold at the Indian Open and also finished on top of the podium in her debut Commonwealth Games. There was also a silver at a prestigious European tournament in Bulgaria before the big World event in front of her home crowd in New Delhi.

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