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No. 16: Malleswari wins bronze in Sydney

Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images

The story till then

Karnam Malleswari began lifting weights at the age of 13, inspired by her older sister. She made her first splash by clinching the bronze medal in the 54kg category at the 1993 world championships. In the next two years she won gold and emerged as one of the best weightlifters in the world. She was awarded the country's highest sporting honour - the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna - in 1995. Three years later she bagged silver at the Asian Games in Bangkok in the 63kg category.

The moment
In Sydney in 2000, Malleswari became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal when she took bronze in the 69kg category. She lifted a total weight of 240kg, finishing third behind China's Lin Weining and Hungary's Erzsebet Markus, who both lifted an Olympic record of 242.5kgs. Malleswari attempted a load of 137.5 kg in her final lift, but failed (her total would have been 247.5 if she had been successful), thus missing out on the gold.

Twelve years later, in 2012, Saina Nehwal and MC Mary Kom joined Malleswari as the only Indian women to win Olympic medals.

The reaction
"I was confident that I could have easily won gold in Sydney, but that day was not mine. In pursuit of creating a new Olympic record, I missed the gold medal and had to settle for a bronze."
- Karnam Malleswari

Expert view
"Malleswari was a trailblazer for women's sport in India. After she won her medal, it inspired many of us to believe that we can get there too. I was a teenager at the time and from the same city as her, Hyderabad. She was definitely a huge role model for me."
- Sania Mirza, Indian tennis player

The story since
After her feat in Sydney, Malleswari set her sights on the 2004 Athens Olympics. However, she could not register a score in the competition and retired immediately after the tournament, complaining that despite her Olympic medal she had received very little support or encouragement. She is married to a fellow weightlifter, Rajesh Tyagi.