Women's day 2023: Chess to Champions League football, a landmark year for Indian women athletes

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Women's Day is an opportunity to look past the tokenism and evaluate how far Indian sport has come in the effort to make it a truly level playing field. This year, ESPN India takes a look at all the highs in women's sports, where the likes of Nikhat Zareen, Mirabai Chanu et al confirmed their world-class status, as well as new stars breaking through.


Jyothi Yarraji

The 100m hurdler from Andhra Pradesh made a mockery of the national record which stood for 20 years. She broke the record twice (unofficially) before she being finally awarded the feat when she won the Cyprus International Athletics event with a 13.23s run on May 11. In the same year, she bettered her own national record three times, with a best run of 12.82 seconds, which she achieved at the Open Nationals in Bengaluru last October.

Meet Jyothi Yarraji - India's multiple record-breaking 100m hurdler

Priyanka Goswami

Priyanka became the first Indian to win a medal in the 10km race walk event at the Commonwealth Games. It was a tough race but Priyanka kept at it, earning a silver with a personal best time, while bettering the national record. She also qualified for the Paris Olympics and 2023 World Athletics Championships after surpassing the qualification standards at the India Open National Racewalking competition.

Annu Rani

At the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, Annu Rani became the first Indian female javelin thrower to win a medal. Rani's fourth attempt recorded 60m as she won a bronze medal for the country.


Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand

2022 was the year when Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand made a name for themselves in badminton. First came a Super 100 title at the Odisha Open, before a silver medal at the Syed Modi International, after which they qualified for the semifinals of the prestigious All-England Championships in March - beating former Worlds silver medalists from South Korea, Lee Sohee and Shing Seungchan along the way.

A few months later, Treesa and Gayatri combined to win the bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games. They were also part of the team which won silver in the mixed event at the Games.

Wonderkids Gayatri-Treesa light up Indian sports in 2022

PV Sindhu

Sindhu had a tough year due to injuries but despite that she managed to make it count when she had the opportunity. At the Commonwealth Games, as the top seed, Sindhu won the gold medal in the women's singles event, which she failed to win in the previous two editions.


Nikhat Zareen

The boxer from Telangana had a dream 2022. She won the gold medal at the Strandja Memorial Boxing Tournament and followed it up with another gold at the world championships in Istanbul. She continued her string of gold medals with another terrific display at the Commonwealth Games. With another world championships, Asian Games and Paris Olympics to come, Nikhat will be aiming to continue her golden run in 2023 and 2024.

"Who is Nikhat Zareen?" Boxer lets everyone know who she is in a golden year

Manisha Moun and Parveen Hooda

As Nikhat clinched a gold at the World Championships, Indian boxers Manisha and Parveen also came back home with medals. Manisha won the bronze in the 57kg category while Parveen also secured bronze for her country in the 63kg category.


Indian women's chess team

Koneru Humpy, Harika Dronavalli, Tania Sachdev, R Vaishali and Bhakti Kulkarni made history at the Chess Olympiad in Chennai by becoming the first-ever Indian women's team to win a medal at the event. In fact, they were the top seeds and were in contention for the gold but a loss to USA resulted in a bronze.


Indian women's cricket team

With women's cricket featuring at the Birmingham CWG, the Indian women's team showcased their best at the event. They qualified for the final after beating much-fancied England in the semis, but couldn't beat powerhouse Australia in the final. Yet, a silver medal was indeed a terrific achievement in Birmingham. Later in the year, they also made it to the semifinal of Women's T20 World Cup before losing to... Australia.

India U-19 women's cricket team

India's U-19 team went one better than the senior side, winning India's first-ever title in women's cricket by winning the inaugural U-19 Women's T20 World Cup.


Manisha Kalyan

The star of the national women's football team, Manisha Kalyan became the first Indian footballer to play at the UEFA Women's Champions League when she made her debut for Cyprus club Apollon Ladies FC. Manisha came on as a substitute in the 60th minute in a 3-0 win against Rīgas FS at the UEFA Women's Champions League qualifying round.

Manisha Kalyan 'Dinho': Footballing intelligence, pace, technique and a dash of imagination


Indian women's hockey team

The women's hockey team were unable to make a big impact at the World Cup in July, finishing ninth. At the Commonwealth Games, they overcame heartbreak in the semifinal against Australia to win the bronze medal by beating New Zealand in the shootout. Later in the year, Savita Punia and Co. won the inaugural FIH Nations Cup to qualify for next year's Pro League.

Moment of the Year: Savita Punia's familiar story has an unfamiliar end, a medal


Shushila Devi Likmabam and Tulika Maan

Shushila Devi won her second CWG medal when she claimed the silver in the women's 48kg category, becoming the only Indian judoka to ever win multiple CWG medals. Meanwhile, Tulika Maan also impressed by winning a silver medal in the women's +78kg category.

Lawn Bowls

Lovely Choubey, Pinki Singh, Nayanmoni Saikia and Rupa Rani Tirkey

ESPN India's Team of the Year. India's lawn bowls fours team won the most significant gold medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in a thriller against South Africa. It's worth repeating the lines that first appeared here: the four took a relatively unknown sport to the national spotlight, changed our idea of it and fired up the imaginations of sports fans across the country.


Dipika Pallikal

Dipika had multiple world championships and CWG medals before 2022 but last year was extremely special for her because of her comeback - after giving birth to twins in 2021. Playing squash for the first time since 2018, Dipika won two gold medals at the world championships in 2022. The first one in mixed doubles with Saurav Ghosal and hours later, she won the women's doubles title with long-time partner Joshna Chinappa. That was not it, a few months later, she won the mixed doubles bronze medal with Saurav at the CWG 2022.

Double delight: Dipika Pallikal Karthik creates history in incredible return


Tilottama Sen

14-year-old Tilottama Sen won bronze in the women's 10m Air Rifle at the 2023 ISSF World Cup in Cairo, Egypt. It was her first senior event, and she narrowly missed out on the shootout for gold in her senior debut.

From balloon-popping to Shooting WC bronze: 14-year-old Tilottama Sen is just getting started

Esha Singh

In March 2022, Esha, who was only 17 at that time, produced a superb show at the ISSF Shooting World Cup in Cairo. She won two gold medals in the 10m and 25m team events as well as a silver in the 10m pistol individual event. The shooter from Hyderabad was already a big achiever in the junior circuit, winning medals in domestic as well as international competitions, including a silver at the ISSF Junior World Championships.

Meet Esha Singh, the teen shooting star who won three medals on senior World Cup debut

Rhythm Sangwan

Only 19, Rhythm won three silver medals in the 25m standard pistol, 25m pistol team event and the air pistol team events at the World Championships in Cairo last October. She had earlier shown promise by winning gold and silver medals at the Shooting World Cups in Cairo and Changwon.

Table Tennis

Manika Batra

Manika had a difficult outing at the 2022 Commonwealth Games - where she couldn't win a medal - in contrast to the 2018 CWG, where Manika was the breakout star having won four medals, including two golds. Later, she also lost in the women's singles semifinals at the National Games. But with a change in coach, Manika turned the corner and became the first Indian woman to win a medal at the Asian Cup. She defeated world no. 6 Hina Hayata of Japan and China's world no. 7 Chen Xingtong to claim the bronze medal.

Sreeja Akula

After impressive performances at the nationals over the last couple of years, Sreeja made headlines at the Commonwealth Games by winning the mixed doubles gold medal with Indian legend Sharath Kamal. The veteran and the youngster combined really well to go all the way and clinch the medal, the only one that was missing from Sharath's collection of medals at the CWG.

Moment of the Year: Sharath Kamal, 40, and Sreeja Akula, 24, combine for mixed doubles gold

Bhavina Patel

A legend in her own right, Bhavina had another stellar year, where she won the gold medal in her para table tennis event at the Commonwealth Games. It was a dream she fulfilled after 12 years. It's little wonder then, that she was crowned ESPN India's Para Athlete of the Year.


Sania Mirza

In her farewell tour on the tennis circuit, Sania Mirza capped off her career by reaching the mixed-doubles final of the 2023 Australian Open. A fitting way to end it where it all began, en route a career that left a massive legacy.

Sania Mirza: The girl who fought for the right things


Mirabai Chanu

Another medal-laden year for the world class weightlifter who clinched top prizes at the big events. Mirabai secured her second consecutive gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, lifting 29kgs more than her closest competitor in the 49kg event. At the World Championships, Mirabai defied injury to secure a silver, her second medal in the competition after the gold in 2017.

It was Mirabai vs Mirabai, and there could be only one winner


Vinesh Phogat

Under pressure after a disappointing Olympics, Vinesh underlined why she's considered one of the best athletes in the country when she won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. She pinned all her opponents to win her third successive CWG gold medal. Later in the year, Vinesh defeated Sweden's Joana Malmgren in the repechage round and won the bronze at the Wrestling World Championships in Belgrade, becoming the first Indian woman to win two medals at Wrestling World Championships after her bronze in the 2019 edition.

Sakshi Malik

It was a year where Sakshi reminded her naysayers that she wasn't going away anytime soon. She grabbed her first international gold medal in almost five years at the UWW Ranking Series event in Kazakhstan and a silver at the Zouhaier Sghaier Ranking Series 2022 in Tunisia. Her big medal of the year, though, came at the Commonwealth Games where she won gold for the first time at the event.

With first CWG gold, Sakshi Malik rediscovers herself on the mat

Antim Panghal

In August last year, Antim became the first-ever Indian woman wrestler to win a gold at the U-20 world championships. She defeated Kazakhstan's Atlyn Shagayeva in the 53kg final in Sofia, Bulgaria. For the first time in the event's 34-year history, an Indian athlete finished on top of the podium.