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regular-article-logo Monday, 04 March 2024

India at a glance: Take a bow, stars

While India continued to weave dreams around Neeraj Chopra, Lionel Messi left the world breathless with his wizardry

The Telegraph Published 30.12.22, 03:26 AM
Neeraj Chopra was consistently good with his throws in the Diamond League events.

Neeraj Chopra was consistently good with his throws in the Diamond League events. Getty Images

The world of sport spread its wings freely in 2022 and sports personalities soared high with their achievements. While India continued to weave dreams around Neeraj Chopra, Lionel Messi left the world breathless with his wizardry. The Telegraph looks back....

Neeraj, the medal man

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Who is India’s greatest sportsperson ever? Well if you see javelin champion Neeraj Chopra’s resume then you may be tempted to jump into that debate and win also.

An Olympic medal in 2021 has been followed by a silver medal — he came second to Anderson Peters of Grenada with a throw of 88.13m — in the World Athletics Championships in July this year and then he became Diamond League Final champion in Zurich in September.

“It’s up to the people to think... I will not say anything on that,” the man himself had skirted the question after the Zurich event.

Neeraj, who turned 25 a few days back, has done so many firsts in the last one-and-a-half years, that one will lose count. First Indian athlete to win silver at the Worlds, the only Indian to win the Diamond trophy... It keeps on growing.

A groin injury — during the World Championships — denied him a chance to defend his Commonwealth Games gold.

Neeraj’s personal best also came in 2022. The 89.94m throw was at the Stockholm leg of the Diamond League on June 30. A nation, which woke up to javelin in August 2021 after his Olympic Games gold medal-winning feat, now wants him to breach the 90-metre mark every time he throws the spear. “It will happen when the time comes, I don’t have any pressure about it as such,” he would say whenever asked about it. In the Diamond League Final, he won with a throw of 88.44m.

The greatest sportsperson ever debate will continue in 2023 when Neeraj takes on new challenges. In the World Athletics Championships in Budapest and Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, Neeraj will be the cynosure. Not surprising given his rising stocks.

Athletics

Eldhose Paul.

Eldhose Paul. File picture

The Birmingham Commonwealth Games gave India major high points in athletics in 2022. The most remarkable was the 1-2 finish by Eldhose Paul and Abdulla Aboobacker in men’s triple jump, the first time an Indian men’s duo achieved such a feat.

Avinash Sable and Murali Sreeshankar too earned laurels for the country. Steeplechaser Sable and long jumper Sreeshankar won the silver medal in their respective events. Others who added to India’s tally were high jumper Tejaswin Shankar (bronze), Annu Rani (bronze, women’s javelin), Priyanka Goswami (silver, women’s 10,000m race walk) and Sandeep Kumar (bronze, men’s 10,000m race walk).

Off the track, India’s athletics saw another triumph when PT Usha was elected president of Indian Olympic Association.

Badminton

The Indian men’s badminton team – Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth and the doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty.

The Indian men’s badminton team – Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth and the doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. File picture

The Indian men’s badminton team – Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth and the doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty (in pic below) – defeated Indonesia 3-0 to win their first-ever Thomas Cup. PV Sindhu won the Syed Modi International, Swiss Open Super 350 and Singapore Open Super 500, while her biggest triumph of the year was winning the elusive CWG gold medal in Birmingham.

Lakshya, apart from winning the gold in the CWG, became the first Indian man after Pullela Gopichand to reach the finals of the All England Championships, where he lost to Viktor Axelsen of Denmark. The doubles duo of Chirag and Satwikw had a dream year, finishing 2022 as world No. 5.

Boxing

Nikhat Zareen.

Nikhat Zareen. File picture

2022 was the year of Nikhat Zareen (in pic), a year in which she claimed a hat-trick of gold medals internationally. She became the first Indian boxer to win a second gold medal at the Strandja Memorial tournament.

Thereafter she clinched gold at the World Championships and finally she bagged a gold in the 50kg category of the Commonwealth Games. Amit Panghal redeemed himself of his poor show at the Olympics by winning gold at CWG. Shiva Thapa became the first- male boxer in the history of the Asian Championships to win six medals. Lovlina Borgohain clinched a gold in her maiden appearance in the middle-weight category (75kg) at the Asian Championships.

Hockey

Women’s hockey team.

Women’s hockey team. File picture

India’s women’s hockey team beat Spain 1-0 to win the inaugural FIH Nations Cup in Valencia on December 17. The victory meant they were promoted to the FIH Pro League 2023-24. They had also won the bronze medal at the Birmingham CWG. Indian men had won the silver at the CWG.

Lawn bowls

Indian quartet of Lovely Choubey, Pinki, Nayanmoni Saikia and Rupa Rani Tirkey.

Indian quartet of Lovely Choubey, Pinki, Nayanmoni Saikia and Rupa Rani Tirkey. File picture

The Indian quartet of Lovely Choubey, Pinki, Nayanmoni Saikia and Rupa Rani Tirkey defeated South Africa 17-10 to win the gold medal in women’s ‘fours’ at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. It was India’s first-ever CWG medal in lawn bowls.

Shooting

Rudrankksh Patil.

Rudrankksh Patil. File picture

Rifle shooter Rudrankksh Patil was the one bright spot in Indian shooting, in an otherwise uneventful year for Indian shooters. Patil emerged world champion in 10m air rifle in Cairo. The 19-year-old defeated Italy’s Danilo Dennis Sollazzo for gold to become only the second Indian to achieve the feat in air rifle after Bindra.

Table tennis

Achanta Sharath Kamal.

Achanta Sharath Kamal. File picture

Paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal (in pic) left his mark on and off the court while Manika Batra achieved another first for Indian table tennis despite the administrative crisis the sport had to endure over the past 12 months.

With three gold medals — singles, team and mixed — at the CWG, the 40-year-old Khel Ratna awardee paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal showed that age was just a number. Off the court, he was elected as the vice-chair of the Indian Olympic Association athletes’ commission before becoming the first Indian to be elected the joint chair of the players’ body in the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).

Manika Batra failed to perform in Birmingham, but in the Asia Cup in Bangkok, she stunned two top-10 players to secure a bronze, becoming the first Indian to win a medal in the tournament’s rich history.

Weightlifting

Mirabai Chanu.

Mirabai Chanu. File picture

Indian weightlifters bagged more medals, but slipped on the gold count at the CWG. Four years ago, India won nine medals, including five gold, in Gold Coast, whereas this time it was 10 medals, including three gold.

The men contributed seven medals. The women’s contribution was a gold by Olympic silver medallist Mirabai Chanu (49kg), a silver by Bindyarani Devi (55kg) and a bronze by Harjinder Kaur (71kg).

Jeremy Lalrinnunga and Achinta Sheuli’s gold medals in 67kg and 73kg were the high points among men’s performances. Mirabai also defied a wrist issue to secure a silver medal in the women’s 49kg category at the World weightlifting championships in Bogota.

Wrestling

Bajrang Punia.

Bajrang Punia. File picture

India wrestlers won 12 medals at the Birmingham CWG, including six gold. Sakshi Malik (62kg), Vinesh Phogat (53 kg), Ravi Dahiya (57 kg), Bajrang Punia (65 kg) (in pic, in red), Deepak Punia (86 kg) and Naveen (74 kg) won the medals of the brightest hue.

In the tougher World Championships in Belgrade, only Bajrang and Vinesh returned with medals (bronze). Antim Panghal became the under20 world champion in Sofia. Aman Sehrawat (57kg) became the first Indian to win gold at the U-23 World Championships in Almaty.

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