Koneru Humpy: Chess player is BBC’s Indian Sportswoman of the Year
Chess player Koneru Humpy has won the BBC’s Indian Sportswoman of the Year award for 2020, following a public vote.
33-year-old sprinter Dutee Chand, air gun shooter Manu Bhaker, wrestler Vinesh Phogat and Indian hockey captain Rani Rampal picked up the award.
Humpy is the world rapid chess champion after winning the title in December 2019 after a two-year maternity break. In 2020 she won the Cairns Cup, an elite level tournament for the best female players.
“As an indoor game, chess does not get as much attention as sports like cricket in India. But with this award, I hope the game will catch people’s attention,” he said. she declared after winning this honor.
Advising young sportswomen to “just enjoy the game”, she added: “Try to go all the way and believe in yourself. You have to earn your respect and recognition, be confident and look towards the goal.”
“I have won over the years through my will and my confidence. A player should never think of giving up her game. Marriage and motherhood are just a part of our lives and they should not change the course of our lives,” she said.
Born in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, Humpy was identified as a chess prodigy from an early age by her father. She lived up to the reputation by becoming the youngest female grandmaster, aged 15, in 2002 – the record was broken by China’s Hou Yifan in 2008.
She was awarded the Arjuna Award, one of India’s highest sports honours, in 2003, and India’s fourth highest civilian honour, Padma Shri, in 2007.
The BBC Indian Sportswoman of the Year initiative was launched in 2019 to celebrate female achievements in sport and highlight the issues and challenges faced by women and girls in India.
BBC Director General Tim Davie, who hosted the virtual ceremony and announced the winner, said: “I am delighted that the BBC is leading the way in recognizing the success of Indian sportswomen; BBC ISWOTY is not just a award, it is part of our editorial commitment to representing all voices and people in society so that our journalism is a fair and unbiased reflection of the world in which we live.”
Former long jumper Anju Bobby George received the Lifetime Achievement award for his contribution to Indian sports. She remains the only athlete to have won an athletics medal at the World Championships for her country.
“I would like to say to all athletes around the world that fighting setbacks will only make you stronger,” she said. “Never lose sight and always try to be a better version of yourself with each passing day.”
England cricketer Ben Stokes has announced the winner of the Emerging Player of the Year award, with Manu Bhaker receiving the honor, which was added to the awards for the first time.
The 19-year-old became the youngest Indian to win women’s 10m air pistol gold at the Shooting World Cup in 2018.
She also won gold at the 2018 Youth Olympics and broke a Commonwealth Games record 240.9 points to win gold in the 10m air pistol event the same year.
She added another gold medal in 2019 by winning the 10m air pistol event at the World Cup final.
“I feel like my hard work has been recognized. It feels like people know about my hard work now,” she said at the ceremony.
The five nominees for the BBC Indian Sportswoman award were announced in February, after being chosen by a panel of sports journalists, writers and pundits.
Prior to the event, a “Sports Hackathon” was held, with the aim of adding more information about Indian sportswomen to Wikipedia in Indian languages. The project focused on athletes about whom there was little or no information available on the online encyclopedia.
Over 300 entries from 50 Indian sportswomen have been added to the site in collaboration with 300 journalism students from 13 universities across India.
The season also captured inspiring stories of five Indian sportswomen who overcame barriers or sexism and gender inequality. The “Changemakers” series featured para-badminton player Parul Parmar, heptathlete Swapna Barman, para-skater Priyanka Devan, former kho-kho player Sarika Kale and wrestler Divya Kakran.
Update April 22, 2021: This article was edited to clarify that Humpy was the first female grandmaster after previous versions stated she was the first grandmaster.