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Harika Dronavalli was hopeful of making her 9 appearances on the trot in Chess Olympiads when the news broke that the premier showpiece tournament would be hosted in Chennai after it was moved out of Russia.

Pregnant with her first child, Grandmaster Harika did not want to give up the opportunity of representing India in the Olympiad and realising her long-standing dream of winning a medal.

Harika’s grit and determination and support from her family, teammates and the All India Chess Federation all bore fruit when she scripted history by being part of the Indian women’s team that became the first from the country to win a medal at the Chess Olympiad in Chennai earlier this month.

Harika, managing advanced stage of pregnancy, shone for the India women’s team, who were the top seeds at the event. Harika along with Koneru Humpy, Tania Sachdev, Rameshbabu Vaishali and Bhakti Kulkarni were the solo leaders until the 11th and final round wherein they suffered a heartbreaking 1-3 loss to the USA.

What should have been a Gold medal turned out to be Bronze but it was still historic and a dream-come-true moment for Harika and her teammates. Harika’s participation was crucial to the Indian team’s chances as Koneru Humpy and her, the two Grandmasters in the side, lent a wealth of experience. Harika used all her experience to play out 7 draws in classical games and sat out of the last two games.

Taking to social media on Wednesday, Harika, who had traveled to the tournament with her husband and mother, shed light on how satisfying the medal at the Chess Olympiad has been for her and the journey she had to undertake to be there for Team India.

“It’s been 18 years since my debut in the Indian women’s chess team at the age of 13, and having played 9 Olympiads so far, I always dreamt about being on the podium for the Indian women’s team and finally made it this time,” Harika said in a Twitter post.

“It is more emotional because I made it at 9 months of pregnancy. When I heard about Olympiad being held in India and when my doctor said that’s it’s possible to play if I stay healthy without any complications.

“Since then, my life revolved around making it to the Olympiad and winning a medal. My every single step has been dedicated to making it possible. No baby showers, no parties, no celebrations, I decided everything will be only after winning the medal.

“I kept working every single day to make sure that I perform well. I literally lived for this moment for the past few months and yes, I made it. First ever Olympiad medal for Indian women’s chess team,” she added.

Meanwhile, India ‘A’ team coach Abhijit Kunte was all praise for the team.

“The team has worked really hard in the last three or four months and this is India’s first-ever medal in the history of the Olympics, this should be the beginning of much better days for women’s chess in India.”

Besides medals in the team events, it rained medals for India in the individual section with as many as seven Indians winning medals — two gold, one silver, and four bronze.

Gukesh and Sarin won gold on top and second board respectively while Arjun Erigaisi secured a silver medal on the third board. R Praggnanandhaa (third board), R Vaishali (third board), Tania Sachdev (third board) and Divya Deshmukh (reserve board) claimed individual bronze medals.

— ENDS —





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