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New Delhi, February 3, 2020
World champions P. V. Sindhu (Badminton) and M. C. Mary Kom (Boxing) are among the five women athletes shortlisted by the BBC for its inaugural “Indian Sports Woman of the Year" award.
Unveiling the names of the shortlisted athletes, who also include Dutee Chand (Athletics), Mansi Joshi (Para Badminton) and Vinesh Phogat (Wrestling), at a media conference here on Monday, Rupa Jha, head of Indian Languages at BBC, said the voting process to select the winner has already commenced and the last day to vote is February 17.
The winner will be announced by BBC’s Director-General Lord Tony Hall in New Delhi on March 8 at a grand function. “Also the BBC will also honour a woman athlete for contribution to Indian sports with a Lifetime Achievement award," Jha said, adding that the name of that sportsperson will also be declared at the function.
She said a panel of eminent sportspersons, writers, and officials was involved in picking up these five shortlisted athletes. “The panel was given guidelines to select the player(s) for their on and off the field contribution in 2019."
“Now it is up to the sports buff and fans to vote in large number on BBC Sports, BBC Punjabi, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, and Telegu and Gujarati online," she said.
Jha said the award would be a regular feature. "We want to showcase the best of Indian sportswomen’s performances.”
Reacting to her nomination, Dutee Chand, 32, was quoted as saying that “being shortlisted for the award has boosted my morale. BBC has made a documentary on me which will give me more recognition.”
Dutee Chand has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 100m race. She had won a silver at the Jakarta Asian Games.
In a message, Sindhu said, “It feels great to be part of this nomination along with other worthy sportswomen because it is not easy to get shortlisted for such a prestigious award."
Sindhu earned the distinction of being the first Indian player to win the World Badminton Championship. She has also won an Olympic Silver medal in Rio.
Phogat said, “I am very satisfied that my name figured in the list. This means I am really doing well."
Vinesh won two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and one at the Jakarta Asiad. Last year she won a bronze medal at the World Championship.
Mary Kom came up with a philosophical response. The six-time boxing World Champion said, “It will hardly matter whether I win the award or not but this award will certainly go to a deserving candidate."
Mary Kom, is the only boxer in the world who has won eight medals at as many World Championships. She is also the only woman pugilist who became World Amateur Boxing Champion six times. She also won an Olympic medal and is nominated member of the Rajya Sabha.
Badminton player Mansi Joshi said that she was happy to be shortlisted for the award as a normal sportswoman and not for Para sports.
The 30- year-old Mansi had won gold at the 2019 Para-Badminton World Championship. Earlier in 2018, she bagged a bronze at Asian Para Games in Jakarta.
The organizers also presented 18-year old wrestler Sonam Malik who created a sensation by beating highly rated Olympic medalist Sakshi Malik in the trials for the Asian Championship.
The Asian Championship is slated to be held here from 18 to 23 February and if this teenager gets a podium finish she will make the cut for Olympic qualifiers. In case she is unable to finish among the medals she will have to give trials again for the Olympic qualifier.
“I will give my best to qualify for the Olympic qualifiers,” said Sonam who added that Vinesh Phogat is her idol. “Vinesh is a very brave wrestler, I really like her”
Asked what Sakshi told her after she beat her, Sonam replied “She did not talk to me”