Indian Women in Tokyo Olympics 2020

Tokyo Olympics 2020

As of August 7, India’s medal tally at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics stands at 5 with 2 silver and 3 bronze medals.

Of these 2 are by women in sports.

Yet year after year, women in sports in India have to fight a hard battle against patriarchy, sexism, and prejudice to get there.

Unlike their male counterparts, the media doesn’t shine the light on them unless it’s a major win like the Olympics.

The infrastructure and funds for women’s sports are even less to support them.

And often when you become a success like Mary Kom or P V Sindhu you are appropriated with few sponsors and a biopic.

However, despite all odds, Indian women continue to shine in sports and this year’s Olympics was the biggest example of that.

At a time, when 49% of world athletes at the Olympics were women, India sent 56 women to fight in 16 categories.

As they scripted history winning medals and reaching stages in their sports that no Indian woman has done before, we try to grasp their journey.

Let’s take a look:

Mirabai Chanu – Weightlifting

Tokyo Olympics 2020 - chanu

This 26-year-old Manipuri lady created history at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by winning a medal for the country on the first day of the Olympics.

Chanu became the first silver medallist woman weightlifter of India.

She lifted 202 kg and completed 87 snatches with 116 clean jerks to bag the silver, ending the 21-year drought in Indian weightlifting.

With this India went past Karnam Malleshwari bronze medalwin at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Chanu won the world championship in 2017 and has been a Commonwealth Gold medalist.

She has been the Asian Championship bronze medalist in the 49kg weightlifting category.

However, she had a hard time when she faltered at the Rio Olympics.

She came back with a new lifter which made this win possible.

Chanu’s family has been her strength and it was her family who recognized the strength of a 12-year-old girl lifting heavy piles of logs which couldn’t be lifted by her grown up brother.

Aditi Ashok – Golf

Aditi Ashok - Golf

Aditi Ashok created history when she became the first Indian woman golfer to qualify for the Olympics in 2016.

And now in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics she finished 4th in the final, missing the Olympic medal by a whisker.

She missed a long birdie putt by a narrow margin in the medal play off.

The medal winners raised the bar to mend the 2-stroke gap they had over Aditi to win the medal.

Initially, Aditi faced a mid-round crisis but later she came round it to stay in the medal tally.

After round 67, she fought back to bag a 3-round aggregate of 12-under 201.

This 23-year-old from Bangalore has already won the Ladies European Tour three times.

She has been playing golf since the age of 5 and has the full support of her parents who are her golf caddies.

Nethra Kumanan – Sailing

Nethra Kumanan - Sailing

This 23-year-old BTech mechanical engineering student from Chennai has just become the first Indian woman sailor to qualify for the Olympics.

At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Nethra finished 38th in the overall race tally of the Laser Radial event after completing 251 rounds.

She started her journey in the sport as a pleasure activity in vacations but soon got interested in the sport.

During the pandemic, she got stuck in her coach’s home for 2 months that resulted in a fine training experience.

It ultimately led her towards the bronze medal win in the 2020 Sailing World Cup in Miami.

Bhavani Devi – Fencing

Bhavani Devi - Fencing

Born to a priest and a homemaker in Chennai, Bhavani Devi took Indian fencing to the centre stage.

She is the first Indian fencer to qualify for the Olympics.

And she lasted 2 rounds, ultimately being defeated by the world no. 3 in fencing, Manon Brunet.

In round 1, Bhavani had defeated Tunisian player Ben Azizi 15-3

This 27-year-old started her journey in Fencing when she became interested in the sports in school back in 2004.

Later she joined the Sports Authority of India’s Thalasseri centre after finishing her 10th exam.

She attained international fencing playing level at the age of 14 in Turkey.

She already has 2 bronze medals in her kitty from Asian and Commonwealth championships.

At present, she holds 36th rank in the fencing world.

She almost gave up the sport in 2014 after receiving no sponsorship, jobs, career prospects, and financial support.

Kamalpreet Kaur – Discus

Kamalpreet Kaur - Discus

Coming from a small village in Punjab’s Kabarwala, Kamalpreet had little support when she took up discus.

There was no knowledge about the right kind of training and nutrition requirements needed to excel in the sport.

But Kaur got inspired by Krishna Poonia and took up the sport and now she has beaten the record of her icon.

With a 61.62m throw she took India into the discus final.

She entered the final in the 8th position out of 12 selected finalists.

Kaur earned the appreciation of the Croatian Olympic medalist Sandra Perković.

She finished 6th on the ultimate medal tally with a throw of 63.70m beating Poonia’s record 63.62m at the London Olympics.

The 25-year Old’s personal best is 66.59m which is a national record and she is the first Indian woman to throw 65m.

The biggest takeaway for her in this Olympics is Perković congratulating her and her ability to overcome the rains.

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Vandana Katariya – Hockey

Vandana Katariya - Hockey

The Indian Women Hockey team created history at the Tokyo Olympics by reaching the semifinals.

While they lost out on a medal to the reigning women’s hockey champion Great Britain, the team stood out in its efforts after an initial dismissal.

And the star of this was 29-year-old Vandana Katarina from Uttarakhand

Born to a technician father in Roshnabad, she had to fight prejudice, patriarchy, and casteism to get there.

However, that didn’t stop her and today she is an international field hockey player who has played more than 200 international matches.

This forward position player was the top goalie in the 2013 Women’s Junior Hockey World Cup where India won a bronze.

She had made 5 goals in that tournament, making her only the third player in the history of the tournament to do so.

She was also part of the 2014 Asian Games bronze medal winning team.

At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Vandana kept India in the fight by scoring 3 goals against South Africa.

She is the first women hockey player in the world with a hat-trick at the Olympics.

She even kept the Indian dream alive by scoring a goal at the bronze medal match but Great Britain finally won.

Lovlina Borgohain – Boxing

Born to a small scale businessman in Assam, Lovlina created history at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by winning the bronze medal.

She defeated China’s Chen Nien-Chin 4-1 to win the bronze in 69kg Welterweight boxing.

She later lost the semifinal to Turkey’s Busenaz Surmeneli.

The 23 year old Arjuna award winning kickboxer comes from a family of kickboxers.

All her sisters indulged in boxing but didn’t pursue it professionally. 

She was scouted by the Sports Authority of India in their talent hunt at her school. 

Lovlina Borgohain is a 2 time bronze medalist at the World Boxing Championship.

P.V. Sindhu – Badminton

P.V. Sindhu - Badminton

Last but not the least our star Olympian, Badminton player P.V. Sindhu made India proud again with a bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

She created history by becoming the first Indian woman with an Olympics silver medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

This time she won the bronze medal by defeating China’s Hi Bingjiao in straight sets of 21-13, 21-15.

Earlier she lost out to Chinese Tai Tzu-ying 21-18, 21-12 at the semi finals.

Coming from a family of national level volleyball players, she didn’t take much time to excel in her sport and broke into the top 20 world ranking at the age of 17.

Currently, this 26 year old from Hyderabad holds 7th rank in the world with 15 titles with 349 wins and 149 losses.

She is the only Indian woman to have 2 Olympics medals – a silver and a bronze. She is also the reigning world badminton champion.

These were some of the many firsts for Indian women at the Tokyo Olympics this year.

Which of these star performers did you enjoy watching?

Also Read – 10 International games with origins in India

Written by Pratiti Nath

A heritage and travel enthusiast with a penchant for sustainable living and travel, Pratiti writes on key issues governing health, environment, travel and culture. A microbiologist by vocation and a writer/editor by profession Pratiti brings science and innovation in her pursuits of life. When not traveling she can be found addressing key issues on her blog at

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