CWG 2022: A Delhi school looks forward to welcoming their champ, cricket coach and Lawn Bowls gold medallist Pinki Singh
In 2005, Pinki embarked on a new career journey when she joined Delhi Public School, RK Puram as a cricket coach. A native of the national capital, having completed her schooling and undergraduate degree here, she was recruited as a physical education teacher after completing a course in cricket at the National Institute of Sport in Patiala. But four years later, after establishing herself as a coach, her life changed.
Pinki began lawn bowling because of a stroke of luck. Her school was home to one of only two lawn bowling greens and training facilities in Delhi. She took it up recreationally in 2007.
On Tuesday, Pinky and her teammates created history, beating South Africa in the final of the 2022 Commonwealth Games by winning the women’s Four Lawn Balls gold medal – India’s first CWG medal in the sport.
Pinky, along with Tania Choudhary, Roopa Rani Tirkey and Nayanomi Saikia, proved to be too much for the South African contingent, defeating them 17–10. India started on the front foot and took a massive 7-2 lead by the end of the fifth end.
However, a resurgence was to come from South Africa, a powerhouse at the CWG Lawn Bowles, who dug deep to pull the level 8-8 by the end of the 10th end, and even finished 10 in the 11th end. Took a lead of 8. The Indians wrote the script for their comeback.
In the next four ends, both Saikia and Turkey put up great performances to turn it around and take the gold. The pair, well supported by Pinky and Choudhary, led the team to score 9 consecutive points between the 12th and 15th ends to create history for India.
This medal has already been added to the money India has earned so far in the Commonwealth Games. Including Lawn Bowles, the country has so far won 12 medals at the Games, five of which are gold.
For Pinki, this triumph was a long time coming. Ahead of the 2010 CWG in Delhi, her school became a hub for the country’s lawn bowlers, who were about to represent India at a multi-sport event for the very first time. Pinki’s passion for the sport grew, taking part in the CWG that year and finishing fourth. And she has not looked back since.
Working on two fronts
She is still a PE teacher at DPS RK Puram, a job from which she takes leave to jet off to represent India internationally. This is the 42-year-old’s fourth consecutive CWG appearance, and she has won gold medals at the Asian Lawn Bowls Championships in 2009 and 2017.
“Goes without saying that we are so proud of her. It’s a huge achievement, the country’s achievement,” the school’s principal, Padma Srinivasan, said. “I had met her before she travelled (to Birmingham) and she was full of confidence. Before leaving, she told me ‘Iss Baar toh kuchh lekar aaungi (I won’t come back empty-handed this time)”.
N Suresh, head of the sports department of the school, says Pinki takes her fitness very seriously, but it is her mental strength that sets her apart. “Her dedication is amazing. You see it in how she trains herself, but also how she trains students,” he said, adding that she is regularly involved in guiding young bowlers, taking charge of contingents at tournaments like the Asian Championships, as well as the Khelo India Youth Games.
Pinki travelled to Birmingham with lofty expectations from herself despite having an imperfect build-up. Covid-19 did not allow her a lot of time to practise, and she had to recover from a knee injury and complete her rehabilitation in time to make it to the CWG. “Having known her for so long, I had no doubts she would go (to the CWG),” her colleague Mandeep Tiwani said. “Ever since she started representing India, I have seen her drive and focus towards her sport. Training always came first, no matter what personal turmoil she went through.”
After winning gold for India, Pinky will soon be back to her day job, a reality for most Indian athletes, who do not compete in the mainstream, commercially viable sports. His teammates Tirkey and Lovely Choubey from Jharkhand will both return to their jobs as district sports officers and police constables respectively. So will Saikia, who is a constable in the Assam Police.
“We hope to give her (Pinky) the welcome she deserves,” Srinivasan said.