Guest AuthorNeha Bagaria

Karnam Malleswari: First Indian Woman to Win Olympic Medal

By | Sandhya |

If Indian women are shining in the Olympic arena today, they owe their success streak to one woman – Karnam Malleswari, the #FirstIndianwomen to win a medal in the Olympics. She inspired many women to follow her success path and to believe in themselves. 

It is to be noted that all the women featured in this series had to fight against all odds and reach the pinnacle of success through sheer grit and determination. Karnam Malleswari’s case was not different. Born in a remote village in Andhra Pradesh, she took upon a sport which was deemed unfit for women and even more unthinkable to take it up to the Olympian level.

Mind you this was in the 90s when mere participation in international podiums was an achievement by itself and medal-winning was a chance and not the goal.

It was her mother who encouraged her to pursue the sport, to believe in herself and to prove the sceptics wrong. So Karrnam trudged on and started training as early as 12 years and was noticed by SAI in the 90s. 

She went on to win many international tournaments including Asian Games, and World Championships, with gold and silver medals in her kitty.  But it was her Olympic debut that made the news!  

Ironically, the International Olympic Committee did not include women’s weightlifting as an Olympic sport till Sydney 2000. By that time, many believed that she was past her prime and not fit enough to be part of the Olympic squad. 

But, as they say, the rest is history! She became the first-ever Indian woman to win a gold medal in the Olympics and in weightlifting at the Sydney Olympics, 2000. 

She has paved the way for athletes like Mirabai Chanu, Kunjurani Devi, Poonam Yadav and many others to dream of an Olympic podium finish. 

Beat the odds. Change Impossible to I’m Possible

Republished with permission and originally published at

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