Badminton world champion PV Sindhu has been named the inaugural winner of the BBC’s Indian Sportswoman of the Year award. It follows a public vote that saw her top a shortlist that also included boxer Mary Kom, wrestler Vinesh Phogat, sprinter Dutee Chand, and para-badminton’s Mana Joshi.
The award ceremony was held in New Delhi on Saturday and was attended by eminent athletes and administrators, journalists, and influencers.
Accepting the award Sindhu said “My message to all young sportswomen is that as women we have to believe in ourselves. Hard work is the key to success. I’m sure soon there will be more Indian sportswomen winning medals for the country.”
The award was first announced last December, with the shortlist chosen by journalists across a number of different sports. Fans were then able to cast their vote online on any of the Indian language websites which the BBC currently operates – Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Gujurati, and Punjab.
The objective of the award was not only to honour the achievement of the best Indian female athletes, but also to shine a light on sport as a tool for empowerment in a country where, too often women are seen as either victim, weak, or, alternatively frivolous, because of their association with the entertainment and glamour industries.
Sindhu beat her competitors to the award after a year in which, last August in Basel, she became the first Indian to win gold at the World Championships. Winner of silver in the singles at the Rio Olympics, Sindhu now has five World Championship medals in all and is regarded as a realistic medal prospect for Tokyo later this year.
Aged just 17, Sindhu entered the world’s top 20 in 2012, and has been a top ten player for the past four years.
Also honoured was former sprinter PT Usha. She was given the Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to Indian sports, and for acting as a role model to generations of young athletes.
Usha finished fourth at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 in the 400 meters, only missing out on a medal by one-hundredth of a second, and, during a glittering career, won more than a hundred medals and awards of various kinds.