Women players from Hyderabad have become dominant force in world sports

Abhijit Sen Gupta
Abhijit Sen Gupta

Hyderabad: P.V. Sindhu created history by becoming the first Indian sportswoman to bag two medals at the Olympic Games. She has established herself as one of the best female athletes of modern India. Her medal winning feat in Tokyo highlights a broader trend – that of Indian women giving outstanding performances at international sports competitions in recent years.

Women have to face more hurdles than men to excel at sports, including family pressure and traditional Indian values which may sometimes discourage participation in sport. So this success by Indian women has been commendable.

In this context, Hyderabad has cause to be especially proud since several of these women champions are from the twin cities. What is it about Hyderabad that so many top class women players have emerged from here?

It is due to several factors. Firstly, good sports infrastructure was created by the government before the National Games in 2002. Secondly, there is the presence of top class academies and coaches of high calibre like Gopichand and S.M. Arif in badminton. Thirdly, it is an abundance of sports talent and a cosmopolitan culture in which a spirit of healthy competition can exist. Parents are becoming more aware of the importance of sport and one can see many children taking up sports seriously.

Proof of how Hyderabadi culture and ambience can encourage sports, is evident from the fact that Dutee Chand, champion sprinter from Odisha, prefers to train in Hyderabad. She has been quoted as saying that she feels at home in Hyderabad and she feels comfortable among her Hyderabadi friends. Moreover her coach Ramesh Nagapuri lives in Hyderabad.

Tennis star Sania Mirza, badminton champions Saina Nehwal, P.V. Sindhu and Gutta Jwala, and the world’s best woman cricketer Mithali Raj are all from Hyderabad and Secunderabad, that were known as twin cities not long years ago. Going a few years back in time, there was also J.J. Shobha the heptathlete who put up a brave performance at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Shobha had to be carried off the field after an injury during her heptathlon competition but she returned with a tightly strapped left ankle and finished 3rd in the final event (800 m) and 11th overall with 6172 points. She was awarded the Arjuna award for her gritty performance for India.

And when we are talking of famous women players from Hyderabad, we cannot forget Purnima Rau who led the Indian women’s cricket team. She captained the Indian team in 3 Test matches and 8 ODI matches. She was one of the pioneers who put Hyderabad in the front line of women’s sports.

The woman who has followed in her footsteps is Mithali Raj. The number of records that this former student of Keyes High School has set is mind boggling. She is the highest run-scorer in women’s international cricket.

After her 20-year-long career as a player, Mithali has become the recipient of several national and international awards, including the Arjuna award, Padma Shri and Wisden’s “Leading Woman Cricketer of the World” award in 2017.

In the person of Sania Mirza, Hyderabad has produced the best ever woman tennis player of India. Sania has won six Grand Slam titles with her doubles partners. From 2003 for a period of ten consecutive years, she was ranked as India’s number one player by the WTA. She has beaten some of the world’s best players of her days and was the highest ranked player ever from India.

The twin cities can also take credit for nurturing the world’s best badminton players. Saina Nehwal, P.V. Sindhu and Gutta Jwala reached the topmost level of the sport. Saina has won about 24 international titles including 11 Super series titles. In 2015 she became World Number 1 thereby becoming the first Indian woman and the second overall (after Prakash Padukone) to achieve that honour. She represented India in three Olympic Games and won a bronze medal on her second appearance in London 2012.

Gutta Jwala has won medals at several tournaments on the BWF circuit and a bronze medal at the 2011 World championships along with her doubles partner Ashwini Ponappa.

The latest Hyderabadi sensation is P.V. Sindhu. Over the course of her career, Sindhu has won several medals in different international tournaments including Olympics by humbling the world’s top ranked players.

She was the first Indian badminton player to become the World Champion and the first Indian woman to bag a silver medal at the Olympic Games which she did in 2016. At Tokyo she picked up a bronze to become the first Indian woman to win two consecutive Olympic Medals.

There is a saying: “Success breeds success.” More young women, inspired by the feats of the present generation, are waiting in the wings to take over the mantle of world champion and it could very well happen that Hyderabad will become famous as the city which breeds the world’s best women athletes.

Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.

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