From gymnast Dipa Karmakar wowing the world with her near-perfect Produnova vault to PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik becoming the only Indian athletes to bag some metalware at the Olympics – 2016 was a year dominated by the unmatched achievements of the country’s sportswomen.
The last 12 months also saw 18-year-old golfer Aditi Ashok rewrite history in her rookie year. And an ever-improving women’s hockey team made it to the Olympics after a long wait of 36 years in 2016.
Here’s taking a look at five teams/athletes who made 2016 the year of the Indian sportswoman.
1. Produnova Queen: Dipa Karmakar
In 2014, she became the first Indian woman gymnast to bag a medal (a bronze) in the Commonwealth Games. But 2016 proved to be Dipa Karmakar’s golden year. The diminutive Tripura girl booked a berth for the Rio Games, becoming the first Indian woman gymnast to qualify for the Olympics.
In the run-up Rio, Dipa refused financial assistance and the chance to train in a country of her choice. Yet, the 22-year-old finished fourth at the prestigious event. And she also managed to grab worldwide recognition, by performing the extremely risky Produnova vault with startling ease.
Dipa became the darling of the country overnight and was rewarded for her outstanding performance along with Rio medallists. In August, she was conferred with the Khel Ratna. After the Games, an optimistic Dipa said she was eyeing a gold in Tokyo 2020.
I never expected to win a medal at this Olympics but to have come fourth is very creditable. After four years, my target would be a gold medal. This is my first Olympics. But I don’t need to be disappointed. I will give my best in Tokyo 2020. I’m fully satisfied with my performance. This is my highest score. But the medalists were better than me.
2. Rio Olympics: 100 Athletes, 2 Indian Girls, 2 Medals
When India sent a record contingent of over 100 athletes to the Olympics this August, the nation had high hopes of bringing home at least ten medals, if not more.
But by the end of the Games, only two of our sportspersons – both young women – made it to the podium at Rio. And badminton player PV Sindhu and wrestler Sakshi Malik did it in style.
After losing in the quarters, Sakshi used the repechage to her advantage. The Haryana grappler bounced back to win the bronze medal bout, beating Kyrgyzstan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova.
Even as she won the semifinals of the women’s singles badminton event at Rio, PV Sindhu had already broken two records. In a thrilling finale, the Hyderabad girl went down fighting to then world number one Carolina Marin. But Sindhu came home a winner – and as the first Indian woman to scoop up a silver medal at the Olympics.
3. Rookie of the Year: Aditi Ashok
From the onset to the end of the golf season, 2016 was a massively successful year for Aditi Ashok. On 1 January, the 18-year-old turned professional. And by August, she had made it to the Rio Olympics as the sole female golfer from India.
But it was only when she tied 7th after the second round of the women’s Individual event that people sat up and took notice. Aditi, who had qualified based on her IGF World Rankings, eventually finished 41st. But her gritty performance helped draw a lot of eyeballs to Indian golf.
This, though, was just the beginning for Aditi. The Bengaluru teenager went on to script history, winning two back-to-back Ladies European Tour titles – the Hero Women’s Indian Open and Qatar Ladies Open. That too in her rookie year, a stage when young golfers are usually just testing the waters.
The teen wonder ended the season tied third in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, and also secured the Rookie of the Year honours on the Ladies European Tour