CWG 2022: Indian quartet makes history in Lawn bowls

Express News Service

CHENNAI:When Rupa Rani Tirkey, Lovely Choubey, Nayanmoni Saikia and Pinki took the field against South Africa in the Women’s Fours final on Wednesday, they had already made history. Irrespective of what happened over the next few hours, they are part of Indian sporting folklore, becoming the first group of Indians to win a Commonwealth Games medal in Lawn Bowls.

Up until Monday, the vast majority of the 1.3 billion people in India had not known much about the sport. The sport’s origin goes as far back as the 12th century British Empire who took it to the countries they had colonised such as Australia, New Zealand and more. India, however, did not have it until 2007, when it was introduced in the Assam National Games so that they could conduct it in the 2010 CWG they were hosting.

And that is where the four athletes from completely four diverse backgrounds — Lovely was in athletics, Pinki was a former cricketer, Rupa Rani a kabaddi player and Nayanmoni a weightlifter — took up the sport. Having not been able to move forward in their respective disciplines due to various constraints, they took a chance with Lawn Bowls. They came closer to a CWG several times in the past 12 years, but each time it ended with a heartbreak.

That’s the reason why they were not satisfied even after entering the final. They wanted to go the distance. The Indian team manager Anju Luthra echoed the same words after the semifinal victory against New Zealand.

That said, even before going into the final, they had a couple of hurdles to pass through in the other categories. First up, Lovely and Nayanmoni lost to New Zealand in Women’s Pairs Round one at Rink 17 in the Victoria Park Royal Leamington Spa on Tuesday morning. Around the same time, in Rink 10, Taniya Choudhury, Pinki and Rupa Rani overcame the same opponents in Women’s Triples. A few hours on, their real challenge awaited.

India started off well, cruising to 8-2, largely thanks to Rupa’s brilliance. But, over the next few Ends, the South Africans came back stronger, taking the lead to 10-8. The India team, led by Rupa, never gave up. By the time they went into End 15, India had taken an unassailable five point lead (15-10). As South Africa’s Johanna Snyman bowled for one final time, the celebrations had already begun. The result didn’t matter as India had won the gold, beating them 17-10.

Ecstatic Pinki was down on her knees. The entire Indian team was in tears. The dream that the four women had set out over 12 years ago had finally come true. “We came here wanting to create history, and we’ve done it,” said Lovely. “We wanted to achieve something, not just for ourselves, but for the entire country. Now, so many know about Lawn Bowls and they will take it up, too,” said an emotional Pinki.

Before they even properly celebrated, the Indian team had to get ready for the Women’s Triples match against England. In a sport that has an enormous share of colonial history associated, four Indian women from distinct backgrounds — who were trying to give themselves a second chance in life and sport — came together to achieve something that has never been done before. History was made in the lawns of Royal Leamington Spa, but this may not be the end. It could just be an inspirational beginning.

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