Olympians and Bandraites
Leo Pinto, gold-winning field hockey goalkeeper at the 1948 Olympics, presented a plaque by Homi Dastoor on his retirement from Tatas. Pic courtesy Meher Marfatia

It’s a heady feeling we’re left with, fresh from the power and glory tasted by some of the 56 women athletes – the country’s largest ever female contingent – at the recent Tokyo Olympics.

Did you know, the presence of our women at the Olympics owes a great deal to a dance. Mary D’Souza, India’s first woman Olympian and Double International, was a student and later hockey teacher at my alma mater, St Joseph’s Convent. Selected for the 1952 Helsinki Games, she had neither coaching nor funds. The government only offered airfare. But Mary was a Bandra girl. Her neighbours and friends promptly organised a fund-raising dance. St Joseph’s lacked a field. “At night, I would jump over the wall, landing on the St Andrew’s School ground next door,” Mary said. “Back then, girls weren’t allowed to train with boys.”

On a more personal note, my father Homi Dastoor was honorary joint secretary of the Tata Sports Club, with Leo Pinto, goalkeeper hero of the team winning the hockey gold (independent India’s first) at London’s 1948 Summer Olympics.

Last year was the centenary of our Olympics entry, celebrating how four athletes and two wrestlers reached the 1920 Antwerp Olympics facilitated by Sir Dorabji Tata.


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    Excellent Memoirs which are captured in our mind with a sip of chai in the terrace early morning. They are the ones which are records of historical moments which are resurrected because of Meher Marfatia’s efforts otherwise long lost and forgotten.

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