5 Indian female athletes who overcame great diversity to become sporting legends Advertisement

5 Indian female athletes who overcame great diversity to become sporting legends

Poster girls for a proud nation

By Manali Shah  July 23rd, 2018

In a society obsessed with seeing their young take up medicine and engineering as career options, sports (other than cricket) features fairly low on the radar. Pursuing a career in sports is difficult, thanks to lack of infrastructure and funds. And while all athletes in India have it tough, female sportpersons are even worse off. Yet, time and again, they have worked extra hard and defied all odds to make us proud.

Recently, Kozhikode-based powerlifter and arm wrestler Majiziya Bhanu qualified for the World Arm Wrestling Championship to be held in Turkey later this year. While she should have been training for the event, she instead found herself unable to raise the funds required. Why? Because she is a hijab-clad woman. She has gone on record to say that many even felt supporting a hijabi athlete might affect them adversely. Bhanu just about managed to make the deadline and is now all set to give her best shot at the World Championship.

5 female athletes who’ve beaten odds and achieved great success


The captain of the national women's cricket team has travelled unreserved in trains — as an India player. Tough to imagine that happening with a member of the men's team. The skipper has led the team to numerous victories and herself holds impressive records — earlier this year, she become the first batter from the country to score 2000 runs. She began playing the game in school when she was 10. When the time came to pursue it professionally, she faced a lot of opposition, including from her grandparents. But fortunately, she had the support of her parents who encouraged her to follow her dream.


Das had everyone from top politicians to Bollywood personalities congratulating her for her historic win as she became the first Indian to win a gold medal in a track event at the World Junior Athletics Championships recently. But the journey from Kandhulimari village in Assam to creating history in Finland has not been easy. Born to a family of farmers, she grew up playing football in rice fields with the neighbourhood boys. A local coach advised her to take up running but her parents were initially reluctant as she would have to travel and live away from home for training. At one point, state level coaches spent out of their own pockets as there was barely any budget for Das's diet or training. She's now raring to go and bring home more medals.


The Indian women's hockey team captain has a journey is so inspiring, it needs a Bollywood biopic ASAP. Rampal's father was a cart-puller and the Haryana-based family struggled with poverty. So much so, that they couldn't even afford an alarm clock for Rampal to wake up on time for her practice, let alone a hockey stick and kit. Her parents as well as her community were opposed to the idea of her taking up the sport as it would require her to wear skirts or shorts. At 23 now, the determined athlete has scored 134 goals in 212 international appearances.   


Sinha was a member of the national volleyball team before she encountered a tragic accident. In 2011, while fending off a chain snatcher on board a train, she fell onto the tracks and was injured so badly, one of her legs had to be amputated below the knee. Not one to be bogged down, she channeled her passion into climbing Mount Everest, becoming the first female amputee to do so. Talk about never giving up.


A five-time world champion and Olympic bronze-medalist, Mary Kom has rightly earned the nickname, 'Magnificent Mary'. "Every medal I have won is a story of a difficult struggle," she said last year. Born to in a low-income family of farmers in Kangathei village (rural Manipur), Mary Kom initially hid her boxing from her father. While he was supportive of athletics, he feared that a face injured in the boxing ring would hamper chances of a good marriage proposal. Even after he got around to the idea, he did not have enough money to provide her with the kind of diet a sportsperson needs. Today, she has set up a boxing academy in Imphal to further young talent from her home state.