Koneru Humpy: Chess player is BBC Indian Sportswoman of the Year

BBC Indian Sportswoman of the Year winner Koneru Humpy gives advice to young athletes

Chess player Koneru Humpy has won the BBC Indian Sportswoman of the Year award for 2020, following a public vote.

The 33-year-old beat sprinter Dutee Chand, airgun shooter Manu Bhaker, wrestler Vinesh Phogat and India hockey captain Rani Rampal to the award.

Humpy is the World Rapid Chess champion having won the title in December 2019 after a two-year maternity break. In 2020, she won the Cairns Cup, an elite-level tournament for the top female players.

"Being an indoor game, chess doesn't get as much attention as sports like cricket gets in India. But with this award, I hope the game will draw people's attention," she said after winning the honour.

Advising young sportswomen to "just enjoy the game", she added: "Try to make it to the end and believe in yourself. You have to earn your respect and recognition, be confident and look up to the goal.

"I won 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," she said.

The female chess grandmaster who relishes beating men

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 the reputation by becoming the youngest female grandmaster, aged 15, in 2002 - the record was broken by China's Hou Yifan in 2008.

She received the Arjuna Award, one of India's top sporting honours, in 2003, and India's fourth-highest civilian award, 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'm 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."

Former long jumper Anju Bobby George was given the Lifetime Achievement award for her contribution to Indian sport. She remains the only athlete to win a World Championship athletics medal for her country.

Indian legend Anju Bobby George believes setbacks can make young athletes stronger

"I would like to tell every athlete across the globe that battling setbacks will only make you stronger," she said. "Never lose sight and always try to be a better version of yourself with every passing day."

England cricketer Ben Stokes announced the winner of the Emerging Player of the Year award, with Manu Bhaker receiving the honour, which was added to the awards for the first time.

The 19-year-old became the youngest Indian to clinch the women's 10m air pistol gold at the Shooting World Cup in 2018.

Manu Bhaker
Manu Bhaker, winner of the Emerging Player of the Year honour, was also nominated for the main award

She also won gold at the 2018 Youth Olympics Games and shot a Commonwealth Games record of 240.9 points to win gold in the 10m air pistol event in the same year.

She added a further gold medal in 2019 by claiming the 10m air pistol event at the World Cup finals.

"It feels like my hard work has been recognised. It feels like people know about my hard work now," she said while addressing the ceremony.

The five nominees for the BBC Indian Sportswoman award were announced in February, having been chosen by a panel of sports journalists, writers and experts.

In the run up 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 minimal or no information available on the online encyclopaedia.

More than 300 entries of 50 Indian sportswomen were added into the site in collaboration with 300 journalism students in 13 universities across India.

The season also captured inspiring stories of five Indian sportswomen who have overcome 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.

I became famous for wrestling against boys - Divya Kakran
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