Mary Kom’s power-packed punches have changed the perception of women in sport. Here are a few other women game changers:
THE RUGBY CAPTAIN
Orthodox Indians would never dream of letting their daughters play rugby. Even now, there aren’t many girls in the rugby field, though the number is rising. “I didn’t know India had a rugby team.
During the vacations after my tenth board, my coach told me to try rugby, instead of whiling away my time,” says Vahbiz Bharucha, from Pune, the captain of the national team. “As I used to wrestle, pinning people to the ground wasn’t new to me,” she jokes. Vahbiz hasn’t looked back. She represented India in the 2010 Asian games, in China, in “the only sport that gives you complete freedom to injure your opponent provided you abide by certain rules.”
Her parents are supportive and she doesn’t really care what anyone else has to say. There are the usual, ‘don’t mess with her’ jibes from people, but as she rationalises, “Rugby players are not aggressive all the time. You can’t just run like a wild boar. You need to stay calm and charge only when the situation demands. You learn to control yourself.”
JUST ONE OF THE BOYS
Meet Kimberly Fernandez from Christ Church School (Claire Road), who currently plays football and basketball for Maharashtra’s U-19 team and has a load of athletics medals to boot. “My dad is a football coach, so naturally, I was inclined to sports,” she says. “I’ve become good at sports because I always played with boys.” Isn’t she afraid of being the only girl among 21 guys? “They treat me like a guy; a few are even scared of me,” she laughs.
Kimberly is repulsed by girls who go about proclaiming that their looks are more sacred than anything. “Those girls don’t know what they are missing. Dressing up, putting on layers of make-up and carrying designer bags isn’t going to get them anywhere,” she declares.
THE KARATE KID
On the street, she’ll pass off as just another girl. Mess with her and you may live to to regret it. 19-year-old Mazagaon-girl Sana Ansari, currently the Karate national champion, has been learning karate since she was two! Not surprising, considering her dad is the national karate coach and her mother is the only Indian, who is a world karate referee.
“Karate gives me the confidence to face problems head-on,” says Sana, who feels all girls should learn at least level-one karate, “given the recent crimes against women.”
Another reason she likes being a karate champ is because she can wear her tracks everywhere, without raising questions. “I don’t know when I last wore a dress,” she confesses. “I practically live in my track suit. All the fuss over nail polish et al isn’t for me,” she smiles.
THE TAEKWONDO EXPERT
Dextra Pereira was the 2011 taekwondo national gold medallist in the sub-junior category. Don’t be afraid! Dextra says she’s aggressive only in the arena. “I like to wear dresses and to party. I’m generally disciplined and calm, but in the arena, I’m a different person,” she says.
Why taekwondo? “I thought that if I take up a sport which is dominated by men, people would respect me.” Make no mistake, she didn’t take up the sport just for recognition. “Being sweaty and greasy gives me immense satisfaction,” she states. “Girls aren’t willing to take up games in which they could get hurt. I was scared till my first competition. Once you get through the first round, there’s no stopping you.”
THE BOXING CHAMP
“I like getting hurt, I love pain.” No, this isn’t Fifty Shades of Grey; it’s the reason Jagpreet Sandhu (India’s No 2 in the sub-junior category) took up boxing. The 16-year-old, who represented our country in the Junior and Youth World Championships in Bulgaria this October, tells us, “To be a boxer, you need to be aggressive, but more importantly, you need to know how to channelise your aggression”. Her family was initially hesitant, but supported her nonetheless.
“Now, they are more excited than me,” laughs the girl who is still coming to terms with being away from home often and missing out on normal college and its related activities, due to camps and tournaments, “I guess this is the price I have to pay if I want to become better than my idol—Mary Kom,” she shrugs.