Mahendra Singh Dhoni put Ranchi on the world map but hailing from the same city, India’s first lawn ball medalists at the Commonwealth Games are not interested in going global. Recognition in their own country would be sufficient for players who fund their travels to all international tournaments as the national federation only pays for the Commonwealth Games. Soon after the women’s fours semi-final win over New Zealand from behind, the quartet of Lovely Choubey, Roopa Rani Tirkey, Pinky and Nayanmoni Saikia could not believe what they had achieved.
The ‘leader’ of the pack, 38-year-old Lovely, is a constable in Jharkhand Police, while Roopa, who hails from Ranchi, works in the sports department.
Pinky, who accidentally caught the game during the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, is a sports teacher with DPS RK Puram in New Delhi, while Nayanmoni comes from a farming family in Assam and works in the state’s forest department .
“It’s as big as the Olympics for us because Lawn Bowls are not part of the Summer Games. We lost a medal by one point four years ago but this time we made up for it by making history. I hope this effort gives us something.” It’s recognition,” Lovely, who is participating in her third Commonwealth Games, told PTI.
Lovely used to be a 100m sprinter while her teammate Nayanmoni was a weightlifter. Both had to move to a ‘slow’ game like Lawn Bowl due to injuries.
Lovely, who trained with Roopa at Ranchi’s RK Anand Bowles Green Stadium, said, “After leaving athletics, I joined Lawn Bowls in 2008. I won Rs 70,000 in a national competition and told myself to continue. I can.”
All you need is a green field and a ball but the game is not that easy, says Lovely. She says that there is no age limit.
“The balls are not made in India, they have to be imported from Australia and England. The facilities are not effectively there. Hopefully that will change after that,” he said.
Some of the visitors he meets while training in Ranchi include cricket great Dhoni, who “lovely knows a lot about his game.” “Dhoni sir knows our coach in Ranchi and has come to see us in Hariyali twice in years. We have a Deori Mata temple, when he goes there he also comes to see us.
Recalling Lovely, he said, “We also talked about the game. He said that whenever he is in Australia he goes to play lawn bowls.”
Indian team manager Anju Luthra, who has been a part of the team’s tumultuous journey over the past decade, turned emotional after the semi-finals. After all he has got something to counter the opponents.
“I am like their mother, I have been associated with them since 2009. It is a long journey, they are like my daughters, my family. It is important to get a medal, because when we go back to India, the federation always says ‘Did you do?’, so we want to prove that we are no less than any other sport.” Appearing in every sport since the 1930s, lawn bowls are an integral part of the multi-sport event. Australia and England are the most prominent teams in the game.
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