We are approaching the end of 2018, and it’s time to look back at some of the major sporting events that defined our year.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, the year 2018 saw India opening her eyes to a multitude of unique athletes who have gone onto become sporting heroes. It truly marked a year when sporting fandom in India went way beyond the contours of cricket. Given below is our list of the top 10 moments (not in any order) that defined sports in India this year.
1) Swapna Barman, Hepthalon Gold Medal in the Asian Games
Struggling with a lack of customised shoes for her 12 toes and braving an excruciating toothache, 21-year-old Swapna Barman created history by becoming the first Indian to clinch a gold medal in the Heptathlon category at the Asian Games 2018.
The gruelling schedule of seven events, spread out over three days, took a toll. That, coupled with her perpetual concern of ill-fitting shoes pinching the six toes on each of her feet and a tooth infection after a root canal resulting in a swollen jaw, were the many battles she fought bravely to notch 6,026 points. She became the fifth woman athlete to score 6,000 points in the sport.
2) Hima Das, 400m Silver Medal in the Asian Games
What a phenomenal story Hima, nicknamed the “Dhing Express” after her native village in Assam, has to share. The daughter of a rice farmer from the village in Nagaon district, she has worked hard to get to this position. She trained in her father’s rice field and that it was only last year that she took up racing seriously. While her father did not have the money or the resources to get her the required training, her village did not have any infrastructure either. However, she would go on to break the national record twice during her fantastic run in the Asian Games, where she clinched the silver medal in the 400m. She was conferred with the Arjuna Award and is currently India’s youth ambassador for UNICEF. Her story truly caught the imagination of the wider Indian public.
3) K Srikanth, World Number 1; PV Sindhu, Winner, BWF World Tour Finals
Indian shuttle ace Kidambi Srikanth entered hallowed territory earlier this year in April. He achieved what no other Indian male shuttler has accomplished ever since the Badminton World Federation adopted a computerised ranking system—become World Number 1. This is pure excellence.
The last Indian male badminton player to even enter the conversation was Prakash Padukone, who was considered World No. 1 when he won three cup tournaments in 1980.
At the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Kidambi was more successful, winning gold in the mixed team event, and silver in the singles event. He achieved World Number 1 ranking for a week during this period. Having said that, it’s been a tough year for him with a series of injuries and fitness issues shortening his tenure at the very top.
Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu finally broke through this year and made history by becoming the first Indian to win the season-ending BWF World Tour Finals in Guangzhou, China. She also won gold in the mixed team event and a silver medal in the women’s singles event during the Commonwealth Games. One must also add a historic silver medal in the Asian Games to her list of achievements this year.
4) Neeraj Chopra, Asian Games Gold Medal in the men’s javelin event:
A truly world-class athlete, javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra finally came into his own this year winning gold in the Asian Games, where he set the national record of 88.06m. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, he also clinched the gold medal in the men’s javelin event. Chopra shot to fame in July 2016, where his throw of 86.48m broke the junior world record at the IAAF World U-20 Championships, making him India’s first-ever world champion in athletics.
5) Sunil Chhetri’s historic plea to Indian fans:
On June 2, India’s best football player and captain of the national team, issued a heartfelt plea on social media urging fans to come out and support Team India, and this move paid off handsomely.
After a dismal turnout of less than 2000 fans in India’s previous match during the Intercontinental Cup, the next match saw the official attendance rise up to 8890 people in the Mumbai stadium, which has a capacity of 10,500.
Things couldn’t have gone better for Chhetri on his 100th appearance, as he led Team India to a 3-0 victory against Kenya in the Intercontinental Cup. Chhetri scored two goals as the raucous crowd in the Mumbai showered the team with overwhelming support. India will now play in the final.
6) Mary Kom, Winning a record sixth Gold Medal in the World Boxing Championships:
What hasn’t been said about Magnificent Mary, the first Indian woman boxer to get a Gold Medal in the Asian Games (flyweight 51 kg category) in 2014 in Incheon, South Korea and Woman Boxer to win Gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (flyweight 48 kg category). She is also an Olympic Bronze medallist in the in the flyweight (51 kg) category. On 24 November 2018, she created history by becoming the first woman to win 6 World Championships, achieving this feat at the 10th AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships held in New Delhi, India, at the age of 35.
Aside from being an incredible athlete, she is a Rajya Sabha member, mother to three children and winner of national awards like the Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri and the Arjuna Award.
7) Tajinderpal Singh Toor, Shot Put Gold Medal in the Asian Games:
Earlier this year, Tajinderpal Singh Toor, the burly shot-putter from Moga, Punjab, broke the Asian Games record in the shot-put event, throwing 20.75 in his fifth attempt.
Tajinderpal Singh’s father, a farmer, tragically lost his battle against bone cancer, soon after his son won the gold medal. If it wasn’t for his father, Tajinder might not have ever taken to shot put. His interest initially lay in cricket, but Sardar Karam Singh encouraged him to take up an individual sport.
8) Mirabai Chanu, Gold Medal in the 48 kg category at the Commonwealth Games:
Last year, Mirabai Chanu won India its first gold since 1995 at the Weightlifting World Championships. Hailing from Manipur, the diminutive 4’11, 106 lb athlete picked up the honour thanks to an impressive 194 kg lift in the women’s 48kg, a new national record back then. At this year’s Commonwealth Games, she lit up the eyes of Indian sporting fans with her fabulous performance, breaking the women’s 48-kg category CWG record by lifting 196 kg in total. During her record-breaking spree, she lifted 86 kg in snatch and 110 kg in the clean and jerk.
9) Rahi Sarnobat, Asian Games Gold Medal in the 25m pistol event:
Rahi Sarnobat, the ace shooter from Kolhapur, Maharashtra, created history earlier this year by becoming the first Indian woman to win a shooting gold in the Asian Games after a nail-biting finish. She displayed nerves of steel in playing through two shoot-offs to secure the top spot in the 25m pistol event by a mere single shot.
Her road to Asian Games glory, however, was filled with major physical and mental obstacles. Battling a serious elbow injury (she couldn’t even lift a gun) and depression, she finally managed to break through during the Asian Games.
10) Manika Batra, Gold Medal in the Women’s table tennis singles and team event at the Commonwealth Games
Manika led the Indian women’s team to a stunning gold medal finish in the Commonwealth Games, fashioning a barely believable 3-1 win over the very formidable Singapore team. Ranked 58th, Manika humbled world number four and multiple Olympic medalist Feng Tianwei 3-2 and then brushed aside 100th-ranked Yihan Zhou 3-0 to engineer a sensational win.
Manika Batra became the most successful Indian athlete in a single edition of the Commonwealth Games, winning 4 medals in 4 events that she participated in. At just 22, the Indian table tennis player bagged 2 golds, 1 silver and 1 bronze in the Gold Coast.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)