BIRMINGHAM: Lawn Bowls probably became the most searched word across search engines on Tuesday. The nuances may have eluded many, but in Lovely Choubey, Pinki Kaushik Singh, Nayanmoni Saikia and Rupa Rani Tirkey, Indian moms and moms-in-law were seeing themselves and perhaps nodding at that never-bending truism, that when a group of women get together, great things happen.
CWG 2022, Day 5: AS IT HAPPENED
As the foursome in Birmingham ambled through the Victoria Park turf to a fairytale gold, the 17-10 scoreline over South Africa concealing the many bumps in the final, with it came the realisation of this genteel sport that mocks at ageism and doesn’t scream for gym-toned physiques. What it calls for, instead, is poise, a steady hand and that slowing down of time that only age and experience bring.
SILENT TEAMWORK, ROARING COMEBACK!
Nobodies turn heroes as gold turns spotlight on unheralded sport
Then, what it asks for is a level head, quiet consultation and constant support. In short, silent teamwork. Teamwork was in plenty at Royal Leamington Spa’s Victoria Park on Tuesday. Because the match was a seesaw.
The Indians opened the scoring before the South Africans went 2-1 up. The Indian girls then opened up an 8-2 lead.
Dear world,Meet 🇮🇳 #TeamIndia’s first-ever Commonwealth Games gold medallists in Lawn Bowls 🥇👇Rupa Rani Tirk… https://t.co/PjoTrj4H7P
— Team India (@WeAreTeamIndia) 1659450192000
The South Africans struck back to go into the lead at 10-8, making them, at this juncture, favourites to win the gold.
“Throughout the tournament, we have staged comebacks,” Lovely would sagely say later. It was about the tournament, but Lovely could have been talking about life as well. That positive attitude meant the Indians took the score from 8-10 to 17-10 and the rest we all now know so well.
India’s Lovely Choubey, Pinki, Nayanmoni Saikia and Rupa Rani Tirkey after winning the Lawn Bowls Women’s Fours final against South Africa. (PTI Photo)
The reaction of the four women after defeating an equally defiant South Africa, was poignant. They formed a huddle, marking a space of their own, and sank to their feet. Tears flowed freely. For them, after years of hard work, sacrifices were finally bearing fruit.
Later one of the Indian team officials came over to Lovely, the leader of the pack, and gently asked to pick themselves up. But, the four stood unmoved, as if soaking in all that the centre would allow them. Finally, collecting themselves they moved out their bubble to a waiting world suddenly eager to ask them about their astounding feat.
What may have initially appeared as something that Groucho Marx would have labelled “a perfect cure for insomnia,” as the American wit once did cricket, Lawn Bowls is proving an unlikely awakening at these Commonwealth Games. Nayanmoni and Rupa are 33 and 34 respectively. Lovely turns 42 on Wednesday, Pinki 12 days later on August 14. Theirs is a life of second chances.
History made! Team 🇮🇳 defeat 🇿🇦 17-10 in the Women’s Fours to clinch their first ever 🥇in Lawn Bowls at… https://t.co/FjQ8HFDtzK
— Team India (@WeAreTeamIndia) 1659446922000
Lovely was into athletics when she was young, while Rupa played kabaddi at a decent level, but it was in lawn bowls that they found their calling. Today, Lovely is a constable in Jharkhand Police in Ranchi. Rupa, also from Ranchi, works in the state sports department as a district sports officer; Pinki is a physical education teacher at Delhi’s DPS RK Puram and Nayanmoni, who hails from a farming family in Assam, is currently employed at the state’s forest department.
Balancing their daily jobs, household work and their passion for the sport is a challenge, and only reaffirms the fact that sport in India is well and truly an endeavour of the middle class, not out of reach for many. “Do we have a choice? But playing the sport is a calming influence for us,” Lovely told TOI later.
Then she let us in on their overall strategy: “You really want to know why we won? Well, women like gold, you know.”
The arena rang with peals of happy laughter. Back in India, many watching women – and men – too did a secret high five with themselves. Some even wiped off tears.
Three of the four lawn bowls players hail from non-metro India. They underline the talent spread across the country. So do weightlifters Achinta Sheuli and Jeremy Lalrinnunga. Sheuli’s journey from poverty to podium is inspiring. Also, bronze medal winner weightlifter Gururaja Poojary’s father drove trucks. Silver medallist lifter Sanket Sargar’s father sells paan. India must celebrate these talented individuals who endured hard times to accomplish their goals and give us joy.
LOVELY CHOUBEY: The 42-year-old is playing in her third CWG and was a promising sprinter from Jharkhand in her youth, having represented East Zone. The daughter of a Class 4 employee of the Central Mine Design Limited, she is currently a constable in the Jharkhand police. Lovely took to lawn bowls in 2008 and made her national debut the same year. After winning gold in a competition, she won prize money of Rs 70,000 from the state government. The monetary award made her decide to keep at the sport.
RUPA RANI TIRKEY: Tirkey hails from Ranchi in Jharkhand. The 34-year-old was a kabaddi player in her youth. She is a district sports officer in Ramgarh, Jharkhand. Her father worked in a post office, and after him, her mother took over the same job. Her sister Reema Rani Tirkey plays cricket. Along with her teammate Lovely, she trains at the RK Anand Bowls Green Stadium in Ranchi, a place frequented by MS Dhoni. Rupa has won three medals at Asia Pacific Bowling Championships. She won a bronze in Triples event in Kuala Lumpur in 2009 and doubled it with another bronze in the Fours event. At Gold Coast, Queensland, in 2009, she won a bronze in the Triples event.
HISTORY CREATED 🥳1st Ever 🏅 in Lawn Bowls at #CommonwealthGamesWomen’s Fours team win 🇮🇳 it’s 1st CWG medal, th… https://t.co/DYInjC8kJH
— SAI Media (@Media_SAI) 1659446482000
NAYANMONI SAIKIA: Saikia was a weightlifter but took up lawn bowls after an injury. Hailing from Golaghat, Assam, she belongs to a farming family and works as a constable in the Assam Forest Protection Force. She made her foray into the sport in 2008 after she saw it at the National Games in Guwahati. In the 2011 National Games, she won two gold medals and was also part of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games squad, where she took part in the Singles Women and Triples Women events.
PINKI: Born in Delhi to a middle-class family, Pinki is currently working in DPS, RK Puram as a physical education teacher. She was introduced to the sport at the school, which had made a lawn bowls green as a practice venue for the CWG 2010 in Delhi. She participated in the first lawn bowls nationals in 2007. Born August 14, 1980, Pinki has represented India thrice at the CWG: in 2014 Glasgow, 2018 Gold Coast and now 2022 Birmingham in the Triples and Fours events.