The wait is over. BBC has announced the chess player Koneru Humpy as the winner of the second edition of the BBC Indian Sportswoman of the Year award after a public vote.
In her first comments after winning the award Humpy, the current holder of the women’s World Rapid Chess Championship and 2020 Cairns Cup holder, said: “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 further added, “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.’’
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.
BBC Director General, Tim Davie hosted the virtual awards ceremony and announced the winner. He said, “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'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.”
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.
“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,” said Anju Bobby George after receiving the Lifetime Achievement award.
The 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 Manu Bhaker after receiving the award from Anju Bobby George.
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.
The BBC ISWOTY was first initiated in 2019 to honour the best sportswomen of the country and highlight the inspiring journeys of talented Indian sportswomen.
The five nominations announced in February 2021 consisted of sprinter Dutee Chand
, chess champion Koneru Humpy
, shooter Manu Bhaker
, wrestler Vinesh Phogat
and the current captain of the Indian field hockey team Rani Rampal