International Women's Day special: These under-25 athletes will take Indian sports to new heights

Sayantan Maitra
women, sports

For long, there has been this notion that women are better off plying their trade in the kitchen and men be men by doing the tough job of getting down and dirty, and testing their minds and bodies in the toughest of sports.

Well, the stereotype has not only been broken in recent times but also thrashed at the highest level. The Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal gave an insight into what we are talking about. Based on the life of accomplished women wrestlers from India, Geeta and Babita Phogat, the movie touched a chord with almost everyone.

The message was loud and clear: Our daughters are never weaker than our sons. 

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This was proved during the Olympics last year at Rio, where Indian women athletes not only competed at the highest level, just like their male counterparts, but also prospered more than the men did. 

PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik brought home a silver medal and a bronze medal, respectively, from Rio Olympics 2016, while Deepa Malik became the first Indian female paralympian ever to win a medal when she clinched the silver in the women's Shot Put F-52 event at Paralympics 2016.

Here are the five other inspiring female athletes from India who came close to getting glory for themselves and the country, but just missed by a whisker...

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We are surem, however, that they are coming back with a renewed vigour!

Here's the list

ADITI ASHOK

Sport: Golf

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Age: 18

aditi ashok golf

Reuters

She is only 18, and Aditi is steadily becoming the face of women's golf in India. Golf has not really found much of a fanbase in India over the years. Of course, fans of Tiger Woods are found aplenty, but what about the star golfers from our own nation?

Aditi, who hails from Bengaluru, turned a pro in 2016. She participated in her maiden Olympics last year, thanks to the sport making a comeback in the Olympics for the first time after 1904.

No one expected her to win a medal, but she finished 41st with an overall score of seven-over 291 in the Rio 2016. Amazingly, after round one in Rio, she was tied at the seventh position, along with Azahara Munoz (Spain), Lexi Thompson (US) and Charley Hull (GB), after she managed an incredible three-under 68.

This, in every way, is a commendable achievement.

Post-Olympics, Aditi clinched the Indian Open, creating history by becoming the first Indian female to win a European tour title. She then won her second successive Ladies European Tour title after clinching the Qatar Ladies Open. She also became a member on the LPGA Tour for the new season.

Aditi broke into the top 100 rankings in February this year and we cannot but wait with excitement at what she has in store for us in the years to come.

VINESH PHOGAT

Sport: Amateur wrestling

Age: 22

vinesh phogat

Vinesh Phogat / Twitter

Born in Balali, Haryana, and currently training in Bengaluru as she is sponsored by the JSW Group that owns the Indian football club Bengaluru FC, Vinesh, the cousin of Geeta and Babita, is the next biggest thing on women's amateur wrestling scene in India.

She was one of the biggest medal hopes for the Indian wrestling contingent at the Rio 2016. Starting off her first bout in the most stellar way possible, Vinesh absolutely decimated Emilia Alina Vuc of Romania in women's 48 kg freestyle event, winning via greater superiority.

Plenty was expected from her in the next round where she took on China's Sun Yanan. Everything was going smooth when disaster struck Vinesh in the middle of the fight. The Indian wrestler badly twisted her knee and was left writhing in pain over the mat.

As she continues her rehab and the road to recovery, Vinesh has her eyes on nothing but the coveted gold medal from the 2020 Olympics. The 22-year-old wrestler is hoping for a return in April-May this year during the Asian championships.

DIPA KARMAKAR

Sport: Artistic Gymnastics

Age: 23

dipa karmakar

Dipa Karmakar / Twitter

On the trail to be one of the most exceptional stories of the Indian Olympics history, Dipa, the relatively unknown girl from Agartala, Tripura, left most people in the country in complete awe. 

She finished fourth in the women's vault finals, missing the medal by just a whisker. It was her death-defying produnova vault that took the world by complete surprise.

In April 2016, she became the first Indian woman gymnast to qualify for the Olympics and on August 7, she became the first gymnast ever from India to make it to the finals of an event at the games. On August 14, she was close to bagging the bronze medal, until Simone Biles of America displayed her magic at the Rio Olympic Arena, taking home the gold as well as pushing Dipa to the fourth position.

Dipa's achievements were recognised by the whole country and she was conferred the Padma Shri on Republic Day 2017.

DEEPIKA KUMARI

Sport: Archery

Age: 22

Deepika Kumari

Reuters

Though most fans were left a bit disappointed with Deepika's performance at the Rio 2016 Olympics, the ray of hope here is that age is on her side and she has the hunger for glory.

Winner of two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and with two appearances at the Olympics, the 22-year-old archer is experienced enough for the quadrennial. 

At Olympics 2016, she failed to hit the bull's eye on several occasions during her team event with  Bombayla Devi, but as she was heading out of the tournament, she made sure to hit quite a lot of bull's eyes in the individual event. This makes most people optimistic about her performance in the Tokyo Olympics three years from now.

DUTEE CHAND

Sport: Athletics

Age: 21

dutee chand

IANS

The athlete from Odisha had a horrible outing at Rio 2016 Olympics, but let's not forget, she is currently the reigning national women's champion in the 100m event. 

Dutee failed to qualify for the 100m semi-finals in the Olympics 2016 and she explained that her failure was due to the pressure and media attention. However, keeping all that behind, she is targeting the Tokyo Olympics with a renewed vigour.

Dutee's journey to her maiden Olympics wasn't an easy one, but she never gave up the quest. The first try failed, the second try failed... and then the third try finally bore fruit! READ about that inspirational story here.

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