Koneru Humpy
Koneru HumpyIANS (File photo)

Koneru Humpy named BBC Indian Sportswoman of the Year

New Delhi, March 8, 2021

Women’s World Rapid Chess champion Koneru Humpy was on Monday named BBC Indian Sportswoman of the Year.

Apart from Humpy, four other sportswomen -- sprinter Dutee Chand, shooter Manu Bhaker, wrestler Vinesh Phogat and hockey forward Rani Rampaul -- were in contention for the award.

Born in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, Humpy was identified as a chess prodigy at an early age by her father. She lived up to this reputation by becoming the youngest ever Grandmaster at the age of 15 in 2002, a record that was broken by China’s Hou Yifan in 2008.

This year’s Lifetime Achievement award went to the veteran athlete, Anju Bobby George, for her legendary contribution to Indian sports and for inspiring generations of players. She is the only Indian athlete to have won a world championship medal in long jump in 2003.

BBC Director General Tim Davie, who hosted the virtual awards ceremony, announced the winner. “Huge congratulations to Koneru Humpy for winning this year’s BBC ISWOTY award. She has made a fantastic contribution to chess and this accolade is well deserved. I am pleased the BBC is leading the way in recognising the success of India’s sportswomen."

"BBC ISWOTY isn’t just an award, it’s part of our editorial commitment to representing all voices and people in society so that our journalism is a fair and impartial reflection of the world we live in,” he said.

Humpy, the 2020 Cairns Cup holder, was happy to receive the award. “This award is very precious, not only to me but to the entire chess fraternity. Being an indoor game, chess doesn’t get as much attention as sports like cricket in India. But with this award, I hope, the game will draw people’s attention,’’ she said.

“I think I could win over the years because of my willpower and confidence. A female player should never think about quitting her game. Marriage and motherhood are just a part of our life and they should not change the course of our lives.’’

After receiving the Lifetime Achievement award, Anju Bobby George said, “I am not able to express my emotions on receiving this prestigious honour. I have been blessed throughout my fulfilling journey. Without the constant support of my parents and my husband I wouldn’t have been where I am today, they’ve always stood by my side.

"The adversity I faced and had to overcome taught me that there is no substitute to hard work and perseverance; everything is possible with right motivation and willingness,” she added.

England cricket star Ben Stokes announced Manu Bhaker, the young Indian shooter, as the winner of the Emerging player of the Year award, a new category added to this year’s BBC ISWOTY.

Bhaker, at the age of 16, won two gold medals at the International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup in 2018, followed by another gold at the Youth Olympic games. In the same year, she shot a Commonwealth Games record to win a gold medal.

“This award means a lot to me. It feels like my hard work has been recognized and people know about it now. Being awarded by Anju Bobby George, this year’s Lifetime Achievement winner, truly feels like the emerging talent is being promoted,” said Bhaker.

In the virtual awards night, BBC’s Director of News Fran Unsworth expressed her delight at being part of the successful second edition of BBC ISWOTY. She highlighted how fantastic it is to see the results of the first ever BBC Sports Hackathon in which some 300 entries about the sporting journeys of 50 Indian sportswomen were added to Wikipedia in 7 languages. It was a special feature of BBC ISWOTY 2021.


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