In the last ten-odd days three young ladies and a young man forced the Indian sports fans to sit up and take not of disciplines like gymnastics, wrestling, shooting and golf, making it amply clear that there is sport beyond cricket.Telangana gymnast Aruna Budda Reddy, Punjab wrestler Navjot Kaur and Haryana shooter Manu Bhaker have all created history and may have given a reason for our sports-minded Prime Minister to rephrase and expand his slogan Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, adding beti khilao khel.
Not to be left out, Shubhankar Sharma produced dream golf play to lead a star-filled field in the first two rounds before finishing tied ninth at the WGC Mexico Championship last week.The four youngsters have amazingly excelled in global sports, carrying forward India’s impressive performances in these sports internationally in the last decade. Curiously, Shubhankar and Bhaker were in Mexico around the same time, the only difference is that the schoolgirl from Haryana’s Jhajjar won two gold medals on successive days to become youngest Indian shooter to become a World Cup gold medallist.
Indian athletes have steadily been going up up in all the four disciplines. They have an Olympic gold, two silver medals and one bronze in shooting, one silver and three bronze in wrestling and two bronze in boxing, though Dipa Karmakar did not win a medal but is hailed as the one of the five women who have successfully landed the Produnova, the most difficult vault in women’s artistic gymnastics.
Bakher, daughter of a Merchant Navy Officer, could have taken to any sport as she did reasonably well to win medals in boxing and tennis, though she dabbled in skating and a Manipuri martial art Thangta. Finally, she went to her dad two years ago to ask for an expensive professional pistol. Both looked at each other, but they can now have a satisfactory look after she became one of the youngest shooters to win the World Cup gold, surely the youngest Indian. wBakher first won the 10m air pistol individual category and the next day she teamed up with Om Prakash Mitharwal to win the 10m air pistol mixed team gold. Manu had to contend with honetown favourtie Alejandra Zavia, a two-time World Cup finals winner, who has started shooting four years before Manu was born.
Aruna became the first Indian to win a World Cup medal in gymnastics in Melbourne, a bronze, while Navjot is also the first Indian woman to win an Asian Championship wrestling gold, at Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Both girls have fought harsh conditions to reach where they are today. Aruna lost her father long before she could start calculating her fractions in the artistic arena, while Navjot’s father ran into huge debts like many farmers in the country and yet encouraged her daughter to pursue her wrestling.
If Aruna had her sister and brother-in-law by her side, Navjot had her sister to push her to pursue her career. Both are confident that they can rise to greater heights, but with better facilities and training programmes. For that they will still have to look up to the Sports Ministry and the SAI as they will have to think of their coaches, too.
Shubhankar has no such problems. He is already aiming high to emulate three other stalwarts, Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal and Anirban Lahiri, who have played the Masters before he received the invite for Augusta National, the year’s first major.
The 21-year-old golfing sensation got his invite in recognition of his exceptional play in the past few months, as stated by the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club. He has summed it up all. “Golf is a global game, and throughout our history we have extended invitations to deserving international players not otherwise qualified,” Ridley said.
“As his results have proven, Shubhankar is a remarkable young player, and we look forward to welcoming him in April.”He has already proved it, having climbed to No.66 in the World,.
(The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)