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10 Sports Persons India Should Have Celebrated In 2017

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“India is a star loving country, not a sport loving country,” Ashish Nehra winced as he said this after he played his last international game. This, coming from a sportsperson who represented India for almost 20 years, warrants alarm bells.

Mahavir Singh Phogat – the wrestler on whose life the blockbuster movie “Dangal” is based – does not like cricket at all. He feels that cricket has done an irreparable harm to other Indian sports. “Watching cricket on TV was uncalled for at home,” quips Geeta Phogat. In fact, Mahavir’s nephew got scolded several times when he returned home after playing cricket.

The irony is such that in a piece that was supposed to talk about sports other than cricket, the first two paragraphs have been devoted to cricket. However, times are really changing with sports like badminton, kabaddi, hockey and football gradually coming to their own. With the advent of leagues and more televised sports, I believe the sporting culture will only spring up in India.

Like every year, numerous sports-persons sweat it out with hours and hours of hard work and perseverance, in 2017 as well. However, they did not get their due share of recognition by virtue of our ‘benevolent’ media. Even if they managed to get a place in the innermost pages of newspapers, they were gently brushed aside by the ‘magnanimous’ public.

Therefore, it’s high time that we update ourselves with the proceedings of Indian sports other than the ‘popular’ ones. In this light let us have a look at 10 sportspersons who brought laurels to themselves and to the nation in 2017.

1. Trisha Deb – Archery

Trisha Deb is a 26-year-old Indian Archer. She was born in Kolkata in West Bengal, the state which has produced star Archer Dola Banerjee.

Career till now:

Trisha got involved in archery as early as 2000 in the Bada Nagar Archery club in Kolkata. She went on to make her international debut in 2013. The right-handed Archer uses 25″ long arrows and her draw weight is 52 lbs. She won a bronze medal at the 2014 Asian Games both in compound archery event as well as the team event in the women’s individual event held in Incheon.

Heroics in 2017:

Trisha led India to its fifth medal at the World Championships in 2017. The Indian trio of Trisha Deb, Lily Chanu Paonam and Jyothi Surekha Vennam were aiming for gold but they ended 228-234 to their Colombian opponents in the finals. This silver medal was the first instance when India has won any medal in the compound team archery section at the World Championships.

2. Ajay Thakur – Kabaddi

Ajay Thakur
is a 31-year-old Indian Kabaddi player. Ajay belongs to Nalagarh district of Himachal Pradesh and is the current captain of the national team.

Career till now:

Ajay comes from a kabaddi lineage. His uncle is a kabaddi coach and his cousin, Rakesh Kumar is a professional Kabaddi player. His father was a wrestler himself. Ajay Thakur stands out due to his clever raids and his trademark ‘frog jump’. Ajay has made immense contribution in Indian’s wins in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup, 2014 Asian Games and 2016 South Asian Games. In the Pro Kabaddi League, he played for “Bengaluru Bulls” in the first two seasons before switching to the “Puneri Paltan”.

Heroics in 2017:

In 2017, Ajay Thakur was made the captain of the Indian Kabaddi team prior to the Asian Kabaddi Championship. It was his raids in the first ten minutes of the final match against arch rivals Pakistan that swayed the momentum in India’s favour. The team went on to defeat Pakistan 36-22 in the final at Gorgan, Iran to lay their hands on the Asian Kabaddi Championship trophy.

3. Neeraj Chopra – Javelin

Neeraj Chopra is a 20-year-old Indian Javelin thrower. He hails from Khandra, Panipat in Haryana.

Career till now:

Neeraj won gold medals both in 2016 South Asian Games held in India, and 2016 IAAF World U20 Championship in Poland. Though his gold medal brought more disappointment than happiness for him, as his throw of 82.23 m which equalled the Indian national record, fell just short of the 83 m mark. 83 metres was the qualifying distance for the IAAF World Championships.

Heroics in 2017:

Neeraj won gold in the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships held in Bhubaneswar. He also finished fifth in a 10-man elite field after producing a best effort of 84.67m at the prestigious Diamond League in Paris. Neeraj’s personal best record is 86.48m.

4. Gadde Ruthvika Shivani – Badminton

Ruthvika Shivani is a 20-year-old Indian Badminton player. She was born in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. She currently lives in Telengana.

Career till now:

Ruthvika Shivani is one of the most gifted Badminton players who are being polished in the Gopichand Badminton Academy. She is being supported by the “Rahul Dravid Athlete Mentorship Programme”. Shivani gradually made the shift from junior to senior professional Badminton in 2014-15 where she has won seven medals including five golds.

Heroics in 2017:

In 2017, she won the “Tata Open India International” defeating her opponent Mukherjee Riya. This victory was all-the-more special as Shivani was making a comeback after a long time following her knee injury. Shivani also made it to the quarter finals of the Vietnam Open this year. Earlier, she had proved her mettle by defeating PV Sindhu at the 2016 South Asian Games held in Guwahati.

5. Sumit Nagal – Tennis

Sumit Nagal is a 20-year-old Indian Tennis player. He was born in Jhajjar in Haryana. He spent his early life in Delhi and Sonipat, Haryana.

Career till now:

He was selected in the first batch of children as part of Mahesh Bhupathi’s Apollo Tyres Mission 2018 Programme. He has trained in Bangalore, Canada and Germany. In 2015, he won the Boys’ Wimbledon doubles title with his Vietnamese partner Ly Hoang Nam. He became only the sixth Indian tennis player to win a junior Grand Slam Title.

Heroics in 2017:

In 2017, Sumit bagged his first Challenger title. He defeated Blaz Kavcic in quarter finals, Yuki Bhambri in semis and Jay Clarke in the Finals to create history by clinching the first edition of the 2017 ATP Challenger Tour known as Bengaluru Challeger.

6. Karman Kaur Thandi – Tennis

Karman Kaur Thandi is a 19-year-old right-handed Indian Tennis player. She was born and brought up in Delhi.

Career till now:

She is the winner of two ITF Doubles Women’s Circuit titles held in India (2015) and Greece (2017) with her partner Dhruthi Tatachar Venugopal. She is also the Runner up of four Doubles titles.

Heroics in 2017:

Karman Thandi attained her career high WTA singles ranking of 307 this year after her career high WTA doubles ranking of 566 that she had reached in 2016. Karman has also been the Runner up of 2 ITF Singles Titles held in China and India this year.

7. Shivani Kataria – Swimming

Shivani Kataria is a 20-year-old Indian Swimmer. She was born and brought up in Gurugram, Haryana and started swimming at the young age of six.

Career till now:

Shivani steeped into professional swimming in 2012 after bagging several awards at the inter-school and district level. She won a gold medal at the 2016 South Asian Games and represented India in the 2016 Rio Olympics as a wild card entry.

Heroics in 2017:

In 2017, Shivani bagged the Best Swimmer Award at 71st Glenmark Senior National Aquatic Championship with four gold medals and two meet records. She also clinched the gold medal at the Asian Swimming Championship held in Uzbekistan in September this year.

8. Swastika Ghosh – Table Tennis

Swastika Ghosh is a 14-year-old Indian table tennis sensation. She belongs to Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra.

Career till now:

At the tender age of 10, she won the National Ranking Central Zone table tennis Championship in Gandhidham, Gujarat in 2013. At the same time she became the under-12 All India Rank-1. Swastika represented India in ITTF Belgium, Portugal and Spanish Open. She also captained the Indian sub junior team for South Asian Federation Games held in Pakistan.

Heroics in 2017:

Swastika won the State Table Tennis Championship held in Nanded, Maharashtra this year. She also won a bronze in the youth girl’s category in the same tournament.

9. Aditi Ashok – Golf

Aditi Ashok is a 19-year-old Indian golfer. She lives in Bangalore.

Career till now:

Aditi started playing golf at the age of five. Her amateur wins include the 2011 “Hero Professional Tour” – leg 1 and leg 3. She remains the only Indian Golfer to play the Asian Youth Games (2013), Youth Olympic Games (2014), Asian Games (2014) and Olympic Games (2016). Aditi is the first Indian to win a Ladies European Tour title. She also won the Rookie of the Year award in 2016.

Heroics in 2017:

In 2017, Aditi has won the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open. She has also earned a LPGA Tour card for 2017 through the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament which made her the first Indian to do so. She reached another milestone this year when she featured in the Top 100 ranked Women Golfers in the world.

10. Aadil Bedi – Golf

Aadil Bedi is a 16-year-old Indian golfer. He has his roots in Chandigarh.

Career till now:

Aadil started playing golf when he was just four years old, an age in which children generally get enrolled in school. He became All India Rank 1 player in the year 2011 in D category (10 years and under) and repeated the same in 2013 in C (11-12 years cat). He finished 6th in the World Junior Masters at La Vegas, USA.

Heroics in 2017:

The major championships that he has won in 2017 include Western India Amateur BPGC, SSG BLA Singapore Amateur and World Star Championships. He finished as a runner up in the “National Amateur Golf Championship” held in Hyderabad this year.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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