India won their first ever gold medal in Lawn Bowls, as they beat South Africa 17-10 in the final of the Women's Fours event in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games on Tuesday.
The Indian quartet of Lovely Choubey (lead), Pinki (second), Nayanmoni Saikia (third) and Rupa Rani Tirkey (skip) created history after a thrilling battle against their opponents, with plenty of changes of the lead, before a flurry of points towards the end in India's favour.
South Africa began the match with some excellent throws, but Saikia placed a perfect throw closest to the jack to earn India the opening point after End 1. Johanna Snyman's jack-hitting last-ditch throw in End 2 then swung it around as South Africa led 2-1. India tied the match in the next End, with Tirkey coming in clutch with a lovely, curving throw from the outside to give India the lead thereafter in the next End.
Tirkey underlined her penchant for clutch throws in the sixth End, earning three points for India as they took a 7-2 lead. The former kabaddi player turned district sports officer for Jharkhand faced off in a see-saw battle with Snyman in the eighth End, as the points swing went three-one-two in favour of South Africa to make it 8-4 overall.
Tirkey and Choubey continued their ever-audible coaching from the sidelines, but South Africa responded with a few impressive throws of their own to earn two points in the ninth end to make it 8-6. Snyman proved crucial for South Africa once more, as her precision earned South Africa another two points to level the tie 8-8 after 10 Ends.
India appeared to have the edge in the eleventh End, but Saikia's throw hit the jack with the unfortunate result that South Africa went closer to the jack. Snyman responded with her usual calm, claiming two points from South Africa and giving them the lead 10-8.
The excitement ramped up in the twelfth End as India drew level after yet another incredibly precise throw from Tirkey, ending up closest to the jack and earning India two points. Snyman's impressive form had a blip in the thirteenth End, as she knocked the jack closer to two Indian balls, thus ceding the lead 10-12 in India's favour. Snyman's error's continued in the penultimate End, hitting India's balls inadvertently, as India took a large five-point lead going into the final End (15-10).
Saikia produced two impressive throws in the final End, with South Africa left unable to disturb the jack in their favour with their final throw. It led to scenes of emotional celebrations as the Indian quartet hugged each other, closing out the game by a 17-10 scoreline.
Speaking after the game, the players expressed their emotions regarding a historic medal:
Rupa Rani Tirkey: "After we confirmed the medal yesterday, we went back thinking that tomorrow we will go into the gold medal match with the same passion and continue our team work. We didn't get much sleep at night wondering what if we lose. These things kept coming into our minds but we thought that whatever God willed would happen."
Lovely Chaubey: "We use to lose by one point. But this time we decided that we will not lose by one point and we will bring back the medal. Our coaches helped us to stay positive and we are bringing back the medal."
Pinki: "I did meditation (yesterday). My focus only on the fact today is done. Tomorrow we start with zero again. We were not getting excited. But we knew we can convert silver to gold. Because of our confidence we won the gold. We want to do well in the remaining matches and win more medals."